Education

Chickenpox outbreak hits an NC school where most of the students are unvaccinated

Chickenpox - #VaccinesByTheNumbers

According to a this CDC video, before the chickenpox vaccine was available, about 50 children died, and more than 7000 children were hospitalized each year in the U.S.
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According to a this CDC video, before the chickenpox vaccine was available, about 50 children died, and more than 7000 children were hospitalized each year in the U.S.

After an outbreak of chickenpox was reported at one North Carolina school, community health officials urged everyone to “get vaccinated.”

On Nov. 18, the number of students with chickenpox at Asheville Waldorf School had risen to 36, according to the Citizen-Times, which reported 110 of the school’s 152 students have not received the chickenpox vaccine.

The outbreak is concentrated at the private school in Asheville, where 12 students were initially diagnosed as infected with chickenpox, WLOS reported.

Officials with Buncombe County Health and Human Services said at least one other child in the community has been diagnosed with chickenpox, according to the Citizen-Times.

The Buncombe County Medical Director is urging the community to get vaccinations against chickenpox.

“We want to be clear: Vaccination is the best protection from chickenpox,” Dr. Jennifer Mullendore said in a news release, WYFF-4 reported. “When we see high numbers of unimmunized children and adults, we know that an illness like chickenpox can spread easily throughout the community — into our playgrounds, grocery stores, and sports teams.

“Unvaccinated people put others at risk, especially infants who are too young to be vaccinated or those who are medically fragile or immunocompromised. As a medical provider and a parent myself, I urge everyone in our community to get vaccinated against chickenpox.”

CDC shares how vaccines can protect you

Health officials are working with the school to notify parents of children exposed to chickenpox and to exclude those children who are infected or have no proof they have been immunized, per WLOS.

Buncome County has North Carolina’s highest rate of kindergartners who have not been immunized because of “religious exemption,” according to the Citizen-Times, which reported it was 5.7 percent of students, compared to 1.2 percent in the rest of the state.

“Chickenpox is a very contagious disease ... (that) causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also said the best way to prevent it is vaccination. “The rash appears first on the stomach, back and face and can spread over the entire body causing between 250 and 500 itchy blisters.

“Chickenpox can be serious, especially in babies, adults, and people with weakened immune systems.”

According to the CDC, the virus “spreads easily” through “touching or breathing” to people who have never had it or been vaccinated.

Chickenpox can lead to shingles later in life, the CDC reported.

“After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body. ... The virus can reactivate years later, causing shingles.”

In her statement, Mullendore said it does not take much to get vaccinated from chickenpox.

“Two doses of varicella vaccine can offer significant protection against childhood chickenpox and shingles as an adult.”

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