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Health Officials Warning Parents After Chicken Pox Outbreak In Brooklyn

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The New York City Department of Health is warning parents about a chicken pox outbreak after more than six dozen children have been infected in Brooklyn.

Health officials said so far, 75 people have been infected since March in an Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg. The median age of patients is 3 years old.

Of those who have contracted the virus, health officials said 72 percent had not been vaccinated and 14 percent had not had the recommended number of doses of the vaccine, CBS2's Ali Bauman reported.

A woman named Hannah, who is Orthodox, said her daughter Sarah is almost 3 and has received the vaccine.

"I know a lot of people that do vaccinate," she told CBS2's Janelle Burrell. "It's not like it's something in our mentality or our culture."

The recent outbreak has officials once again urging parents to get their kids vaccinated, but in Williamsburg and across the globe, whether or not to vaccinate has been an ongoing debate.

For students entering New York City public or private schools, the Department of Health requires vaccination. However, there are religious exemptions. But many in Williamsburg said religion would not be a factor in the outbreak, and that it's more about a personal choice.

Chaya Fekete helped her 2-year-old recover from chicken pox back in December.

"It wasn't easy at all, but I'm happy I'm over with it," she said.

She said while the toddler had not been vaccinated, she isn't against it and her older children have had their shots. She believes every parent has the right to choose.

"It has other stuff we believe is not so good for our bodies... so when you give the shot for polio and stuff, okay fine but what's dangerous about chicken pox?" she said.

Doctors say it may take up to three weeks for people who have not been immunized to show symptoms of the chicken pox and they may be contagious themselves without even knowing it eight days after they're exposed.

Dr. Fidel Garcia, a Brooklyn pediatrician, says being around someone who is infected could be deadly, especially for infants, pregnant women and anyone with compromised immune systems.

"Very risky, very dangerous," he said. "It's always important to monitor for every cough, runny nose."

He said being vaccinated and being cautious are the best ways to prevent the outbreak from spreading and regardless of opinion, he said it's up to parents to do their part.

The health department said the vaccine can be given to children as young as 12 months.


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