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School with high rate of vaccine exemptions faces state’s biggest chickenpox outbreak in over 20 years

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – A North Carolina school is facing the biggest chickenpox outbreak since the vaccine came out more than 20 years ago, according to the Asheville Citizen Times.

With 36 infected students by Friday, the varicella virus, more commonly known as chickenpox, is quickly spreading through the Asheville Waldorf School.

The school, which  teaches Kindergarten up through 6th grade, is also among North Carolina’s top 3 schools for the state’s highest rates of religious exemptions to vaccinations.

Out of 152 students, 110 have never gotten the chickenpox vaccine. That’s about 72 percent of the student population.

While some parents consider the itchy disease to be no big deal, doctors strongly disagree.

“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,” said Jennifer Mullendore, a doctor with the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services, told the Citizen Times. “Two to three out of every 1,000 children infected with chickenpox required care in a hospital.

“To me, that’s not a mild disease, and if you’re the parent of one of those children, you probably don’t think so either.”

According to the Center for Disease Control, the chickenpox used to cause 10,600 hospitalizations and 100 to 150 deaths every year.

The vaccine, given in two doses, is reported to be about 90 percent effective at preventing the disease.

Even with the vaccine, it is still possible to contract the chickenpox, but those people usually experience a milder form of the disease with fewer blisters and little to no fever, the CDC reports.