Health officials urge vaccination after school chickenpox outbreak

BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. (WSPA) – An outbreak of chickenpox has officials alerting families in Buncombe County.

Leaders with Health and Human Services say several students have come down with the illness at one school in recent weeks. Now, they’re urging parents to get their kids vaccinated.

For some parents, getting their kids immunized isn’t a hard choice.

“I never got chickenpox as a kid so it was important that we made sure these guys wouldn’t bring it home to me,” said Parent Kimberly Walton. “We have this protection that we can give to our kids and I think that that’s really important for us to do.”

In Buncombe County, that mentality may not be widespread.

“It’s scary, but I mean, you also have to respect that that’s a parent’s choice whether or not you agree with it,” said Walton.

The Buncombe County Medical Director of Health and Human Services says a lot of people are not vaccinated.

“We have a highly susceptible population,” said Dr. Jennifer Mullendore.

She says over the years in North Carolina, Buncombe County has seen the largest number of kindergarten students who are not fully vaccinated with the right shots for that grade.

“We know as they age that just creates a large group of people who are not fully vaccinated and therefore at risk for vaccine preventable illnesses, like chickenpox,” said Dr. Mullendore.

That’s why they’re getting the word out about a chickenpox outbreak at a local school. They’re not naming the school but say more than five kids have gotten chickenpox since the start of the month they know of more children in the community with the disease.

“Chickenpox we think of as a very minor disease but, I mean, it’s painful and there is the risk that people get complications,” said Dr. Mullendore.

That includes skin infections, pneumonia, or even death. Chickenpox as a child could lead to chronic pain from shingles as an adult.

“I just want to know that everybody is going out.. And getting vaccinated to keep everybody’s children safe.. You know – The larger community,” said Parent Joel O’Brien.

Dr. Mullendore says someone who’s never had chickenpox or the vaccine should get it as soon as possible after being exposed. She says that can prevent the disease or lessen the impact if they get it.

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