A new study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine finds that haredi boys who study with a study partner face-to-face or in groups studying face-to-face are more likely to get the mumps – even if they were vaccinated against it – than other boys who study in a normal classroom setting in which all students face the front.
Originally published at 9:28 pm CST 11-4-2012
Haredim More Likely To Get And Transmit Mumps Because Of Face-To-Face Studying And Overcrowding, Study Finds
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
A new study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine finds that haredi boys who study with a study partner face-to-face or in groups studying face-to-face are more likely to get the mumps – even if they were vaccinated against it – than other boys who study in a normal classroom setting in which all students face the front, the Jerusalem Post reports, noting that higher rates of infectious disease have also been reported among Israeli haredim, “mostly boys but also members of their family of both sexes and all ages,” because they have far lower vaccination rates than American haredim and because of the overcrowding in which they live and study.
Mumps has almost been eradicated in the US because of near universal vaccination.
Mumps can lead to orchitis, an inflammation of one or both testicles that can cause sterility; meningitis; pancreatitis; deafness; mastitis; and Bell’s palsy.
In the US mumps outbreak studied, more than 3,500 cases were reported in haredi teens aged 13 to 17 in New Jersey, New York City and Rockland and Orange counties. The outbreak is believed to have originated with a 11-year-old haredi boy in a Catskills summer camp who had been vaccinated as recommended.
More than 400 of those cases led to orchitis.
The study notes that when people live work and study in overcrowded conditions over a long time period, viruses like the mumps are more likely to overwhelm them even if they are vaccinated.
Asked to comment, the head of Israel’s Health Ministry’s epidemiology department, Dr. Paul Slater, who is reportedly haredi, told the Post that the ministry has not changed its policy on vaccinations of haredim because of the outbreaks.
“We do not give a third vaccination against the mumps. We have an outbreak once in a long while. We are busy catching up and vaccinating those who have not received the two vaccinations. It is a huge investment in manpower.…We don’t know what infectious disease will be coming next. It is very hard to anticipate. I don’t wish the mumps on anybody, but we can’t vaccinate everybody every year. Yet we are trying our best to increase vaccination coverage to the level recommended by the Health Ministry. One can measure antibody levels and find they are OK, but due to the close proximity, they can still get sick.”
When there is a major outbreak, public health nurses come to yeshivot to administer vaccinations. But most of the students refuse to be vaccinated because most public health nurses are women, and they don’t want the women to touch them, Slater told the Post.
The Post reports that the average vaccination rate for Israeli haredi children is 70%, while the rate is 95% among Arabs and a little lower than 95% for the general Jewish population.
Asked by the Post whether changing the tradition of hevrutas in small confined spaces would reduce the infection and disease transmission levels, Slater said that “nothing would induce the yeshivot to change their study habits.”
When asked by the Post whether better ventilation would “dilute” the viruses in the air, Slater responded that better ventilation would help, but it’s up to haredim to make it happen.
“Yes, keeping the windows open and better ventilation would improve things, but this is something we can’t control,” Slater reportedly said.