North Carolina is experiencing its worst chickenpox outbreak in over two decades after 36 students were diagnosed with the virus, CNN reported Tuesday.
Asheville Waldorf School has the state’s largest percentage of unvaccinated attendees who, for religious reasons, are permitted to forego legally required vaccinations.
Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, the Buncombe County medical director, told CNN, the sudden outbreak, “demonstrates what happens when we have a population that is not immunized, that has not gotten the vaccine. It offers an opportunity for the infection to get into that community and spread easily.
"The size of this outbreak and the fact that this school continues to have a large number of unvaccinated students makes it very likely there will be continued spread of chickenpox within the school," said Mullendore, the New York Times reports.
Speculation surrounding the outbreak suggests the elementary school’s progressive education system, which employs tactile methods may have contributed to the numerous cases which have been ongoing since mid-September, according to Mullendore.
Chickenpox which is transmitted via the varicella-zoster virus, though harmless to youths can be deadly or extremely damaging when contracted by adults, teenagers, and pregnant women as well as those whose health has been compromised by medication or illness. Effects include bacterial pneumonia, skin infections, bloodstream infections, or brain infections.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes there are at least 100,000 children under the age of two who are unprotected.
The health director said, “There is a significant amount of misinformation about vaccines on the internet and social media, which parents may find confusing and concerning.
“We encourage parents to talk with their child’s health care provider and review medically accurate, scientifically sound information about the serious risks of vaccine-preventable diseases compared to the very rare risks of vaccination,” said Mullendore.
The telling blister-like rash is one of the most prominent symptoms, however, other signs include itching, fever, and fatigue.