Nov. 19 (UPI) -- A chickenpox outbreak sickened 36 students at a North Carolina private school that has one of the highest vaccine exemption rates in the state, health officials said.
The Asheville Citizen Times reported that of Asheville Waldorf School's 152 students, 110 did not receive the chickenpox vaccine due to a religious exemption. Thirty-six had the disease as of Friday.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services tracks vaccine exemption rates for kindergarteners and for the 2017-18 school year, 19 of 28 youngsters at the school had exemptions. Two other private schools had higher exemption rates of 100 percent, though they had one or two kindergartners in the entire school.
"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," Jennifer Mullendore of Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services told the Citizen Times.
She said two to three of every 1,000 children with chickenpox are hospitalized.
"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," she said.
Asheville Waldorf School, which includes students from kindergarten to sixth grade, said it was cooperating with the health department on the outbreak.
"The school follows immunization requirements put in place by the state board of education, but also recognizes that a parent's decision to immunize their children happens before they enter school," the school said in a statement.
Chickenpox, or the varicella-zoster virus, is a highly contagious disease that causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness and fever. It can be a dangerous disease for babies, pregnant women, adults, babies, people who unable to receive the vaccine and those with compromised immune systems, like those being treated for cancer.