An anti-vaccination stronghold in the state of North Carolina is experiencing its worst chickenpox outbreak in the past two decades. Thirty-six are confirmed to have chickenpox so far.
The Asheville Waldorf School is a private school that serves children from nursery through to the sixth grade. It is also a symbol for a small, but strong anti-vaccination movement in North Carolina as it has one of the state’s highest vaccination exemption rates. Specifically, 110 of the school’s 152 children do not have the chickenpox vaccine.
The school already had 28 confirmed chickenpox cases at the beginning of November, but authorities confirmed 36 cases by this past Friday. This makes the current outbreak the largest in the state in the past two decades.
In a statement, the school clarified that it does follow the immunization requirements set by state’s board of education, but that it also honors the parents’ decision on whether or not to immunize their children, whether due to doctor’s advice or on religious grounds.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of unvaccinated children below 2 years has quadrupled since 2001.
Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) that causes symptoms such as blister-like rashes, itching, fever, and tiredness. The rashes typically appear first on the stomach, back, and face, then spread to the other parts of the body.
Chickenpox can be serious, especially in infants, adults, pregnant women, and in people with compromised immune systems. Every year, there are about 4 million chickenpox cases in the United States, causing over 10,000 hospitalizations and between 100 and 150 deaths.
Vaccination remains to be the best way to prevent chickenpox. However, there are still some who believe that vaccines may cause more harm than good, and that vaccines carry an autism risk. The former is contrary to scientific evidence, while the latter has already been debunked.