Clinic serving Montreal's Hasidic community educates patients about measles outbreak

With Passover approaching, there's expected to be an increase in visitors from Brooklyn, where mandatory vaccinations were ordered last week.

Rabbi works to counter misinformation spread by anti-vaccination groups

Signs about measles and the measles vaccine are displayed at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y., last month, where local officials declared a state of emergency over a measles outbreak. (Seth Wenig/Associated Press)

A clinic that serves Montreal's Hasidic Jewish community is educating patients about the symptoms of measles following an outbreak in New York City.

With Passover approaching, there's expected to be an increase in visitors from Brooklyn, where mandatory vaccinations were ordered last week.

Nearly 300 measles cases have been diagnosed in the biggest city in the U.S. since last fall, compared to two in all of 2017.

Many of those who contracted measles are members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish religious community. New York City officials believe an estimated 1,800 children in Brooklyn hadn't been immunized as of December.

Yaakov Salomon, a nurse practitioner at the Montreal Center for Health and Care on Parc Avenue, said the vast majority of his patients make it a point to get their vaccines.

Still, the clinic consulted with public health officials in order to have a plan in case a suspected case of measles is detected in Montreal.

"We've been educating our patients on how to recognize signs of measles," he said.

The clinic is also making sure employees are up to date on their vaccines. If someone comes in showing signs of measles they will be treated in a separate room.

A fight against misinformation

Eric Litvak, medical chief of infectious diseases with the Montreal public health authority, said the same guidelines are in place for all primary care and first-line clinics.

He said the best form of prevention against the infectious disease is to ensure you've received your shots.

There have been three cases of measles in Montreal since the beginning of 2019.

Rabbi Binyomin Weiss, who serves as the chief rabbi of Montreal, said community leaders have taken steps to counter any misinformation spread by anti-vaccine supporters.

"From a religious perspective and also from an ethical and moral perspective, our message is very clear: families are required to follow the direction of the health authorities," he said.

"My impression is that this message has been very clear and that it has been well received. The Hasidic community is no different than the general community."

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose, stuffy nose, red and watery eyes and tiny white spots in the mouth.

Two to four days after the onset of symptoms, a rash including pimples and red spots appears, first on the face, then on the trunk, arms and legs, for three to seven days.

Measles can cause serious health complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

Complications are more common in people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women and children under one year of age.

With files from Valeria Cori-Manocchio and Associated Press