(JTA) — A measles outbreak in Los Angeles County, California, is centered on the Orthodox Jewish community, according to reports.
Some 20 people have been infected in the outbreak, with 18 in LA County, 15 of whom, according to the LA County Department of Public Health “either knew one another or had a clear social connection,” the Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend.
None of the 18 people could show proof of vaccination, according to the health department’s interim health officer Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser. Most of those infected were in their 20s but the infected also included young children and older adults, according to the newspaper.
The outbreak comes six months after California passed a strict vaccine law, making vaccines mandatory beginning in first grade.
Rabbi Hershy Z. Ten, president of the Los Angeles Bikur Cholim organization, said in a column written for Jewish Home LA that at the end of December he had received a call from Dr. Franklin Pratt, medical director for the Los Angeles Department of Public Health Immunization Program, “who advised that just days prior, a measles outbreak was identified in the Los Angeles Orthodox Jewish community linked through epidemiology, social interaction, and geography. He asked that Bikur Cholim urgently readdress and write about this issue in order to reach as many Jewish communities as quickly as possible.”
Gunzenhauser said county health workers interviewed each infected person to find out everywhere they went during the four days before and after they developed the rash associated with measles.
The county workers ultimately identified more than 2,000 people who may have come into contact with a measles patient, and discovered that about 10 percent of them had not been vaccinated.
“Regardless of what or when any regulations were implemented or any parents’ personal belief, no child should be allowed to remain at school or enter a play-group, whether at a home or synagogue, without proof that they’ve been immunized,” Ten wrote.
In 2015, a wave of pertussis, or “whooping cough,” appeared in the haredi Orthodox communities of Williamsburg and Borough Park, Brooklyn.