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An Anti-Vaxxer Community Has Been Hit With The Worst Chickenpox Outbreak In 20 Years

Emily Reily 21 Nov 2018

An outbreak of chicken pox is running quickly through a private school in Asheville, North Carolina, partly because there is a high rate of vaccine-exempted children at the school.

Large chicken-pox outbreak at N.C. school

The Asheville-Waldorf School, a private school, now claims the largest outbreak of chicken pox in the state since the vaccine became available more than 20 years ago. The facility educates children from nursery school through sixth grade.

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Vaccine exemption rates high at nursery, grade school

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According to Citizen-Times, Buncombe County leads North Carolina in religious exemption rates for kindergartners: 5.7 percent.

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Chicken pox is also known as varicella

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The Citizen-Times reports that of the 28 kindergartners for the 2017-18 school year, 19 had an exemption, some religious, to the vaccine. As of last Friday, about 36 students at the Asheville Waldorf School had contracted varicella virus, or chicken pox.

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Some still refuse to immunize their child against disease

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The debate over whether to vaccinate your child continues to rage, though health experts stress that it's better to vaccinate than not, as others around infected people may have compromised immune systems.

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"It's not just about you"

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"It's not just about you," said Susan Sullivan, a nurse with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. "It's about the people you interact with: Pregnant women, people with AIDS, people finishing chemo. They're a part of our community, too, and we have to do what we can to protect everybody," Sullivan says.

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"Reservoirs for disease"

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"The thing people need to understand is that when you have pockets of unvaccinated people, they serve as reservoirs for disease," said  Sullivan.

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Two to three of every 1,000 children need hospitalization

Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, of Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services, says many people still don't regard chicken pox as a dangerous disease, adding that two to three of every 1,000 children with chicken pox needed hospitalization. "People don't think it's a serious disease, and for the majority of people it's not. But it's not that way for everybody," Mullendore said.

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