In a follow-up on the chickenpox outbreak at the Asheville Waldorf School, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) reports that the outbreak has spread into the community at large.

A number of varicella, or chickenpox lesions on the face of a young child/CDC
A number of varicella, or chickenpox lesions on the face of a young child/CDC

As of this time, 37 students and 4 additional community members have become ill with chickenpox as part of this outbreak.

“The role of public health is to protect the health of the entire community,” says Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, BCHHS Medical Director. “We know that immunization is the best way to prevent chickenpox and stop this outbreak. We encourage all those who have not been immunized fully against chickenpox with two doses of the vaccine and who have never been sick with chickenpox to get immunized now. Immunizations protect more than just the person who is immunized; by making it harder for infection to spread, they also help protect the vulnerable in our community – like infants and people with weakened immune systems – who are at risk of more severe complications from chickenpox, but may not be able to receive the immunization. The more people who are immunized in our community, the safer we all are.”

It can take 21 days from exposure to chickenpox until development of the rash illness. People with chickenpox are able to spread the infection as early as 1 to 2 days before the rash starts.

If you or your child develop symptoms of chickenpox (an itchy rash that changes from spots, to bumps, to blisters, and then forms scabs), stay home and contact your medical provider. To protect others, please call ahead if you are planning to visit any type of healthcare facility. Anyone with chickenpox should stay home from school or work and avoid group activities (like sporting events, religious services, play groups, parties, and festivals) until all the blisters have formed scabs, usually 4 to 7 days after the rash begins.

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the chickenpox outbreak is not declared over until 42 days have passed without a new case of chickenpox. Based on the timing of the most recent case in the community, this outbreak will continue into the new year.