Measles Strikes Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox Community

Two Londoners, who were guests at a wedding about six weeks ago, may have been the carriers of the contagious virus.

An outbreak of measles in Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox community has taken 40 victims, mostly children, the Health Ministry says.

Two Londoners, who were guests at a wedding about six weeks ago, may have been the carriers of the contagious virus. Measles is spread through the air (contact with fluids from an infected person's nose and mouth, either directly or through a sneeze), and is highly contagious. Symptoms include high fever, coughing, runny nose, inflammation and a rash all over the body.

Most of the ultra-Orthodox families refrain from vaccinating their children against measles despite Health Ministry attempts to persuade them to do so.

"Many families don't inoculate their children for religious reasons and adamantly refuse to consider it," a senior Health Ministry official said.

"The present outbreak has been contained to some extent, but the situation is still problematic," he said.

The Health Ministry issued a circular with detailed instructions on how to reduce the disease's spreading, including vaccinating children.

Health Ministry workers have recently visited Jerusalem's utlra-Orthodox neighborhoods in an attempt to vaccinate children, but with limited success.

"There are entire groups [of utlra-Orthodox people] who refuse to get a vaccination for various reasons. We asked rabbis to help us to persuade them but they refused," a senior Health Ministry official said.

The ministry has advised health-care workers who come into contact with measles patients to be vaccinated after a nurse who treated patients ill with the disease contracted it. Such workers should get the triple vaccination against measles, German measles and mumps, the ministry said.