MEDIA ADVISORY: NKY HEALTH STATEMENT – CHICKENPOX AND PROTECTING PUBLIC HEALTH

May 8, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Laura Brinson
859-344-5474
laura.brinson@nkyhealth.org

FLORENCE, Ky. — Recent news articles reporting statements by Chris Wiest, the plaintiffs’ attorney, downplaying the dangers of the chickenpox virus are alarming and disappointing. Wiest’s comments are dismissive of the severity of this virus, and his recent announcement that he is advising his clients to actively contract the virus so that they can become individually immune to it is deeply concerning to the Northern Kentucky Health Department.

This is clearly not appropriate medical advice, according to physicians and infectious disease experts.  Chickenpox, also known as varicella, is an acute infectious disease. When introduced in an unvaccinated population, the virus can rapidly spread, causing serious, even deadly consequences, to people who are particularly at risk, such as infants, adolescents, pregnant women, and adults and children with weakened immune systems, including those receiving cancer treatment.

While the tactic Wiest suggests may provide an individual with future immunity from chickenpox, this infected person can easily spread the virus to other, unsuspecting people, including those particularly vulnerable to this potentially life-threatening infection.

Encouraging the spread of an acute infectious disease in a community demonstrates a callous disregard for the health and safety of friends, family, neighbors, and unsuspecting members of the general public.  A person who has contracted chickenpox can be infectious for up to 2 days before experiencing the rash that is associated with the virus. Control measures, such as restricted school attendance, participation in extracurricular activities, and instructing those who have symptoms to avoid contact with others, are designed to prevent unvaccinated people who have been exposed to the virus from infecting members of the general public while they are infectious.

The Northern Kentucky Health Department has and will continue to follow the established medical guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other nationally acclaimed experts in infectious disease control in responding to the chickenpox outbreak among Assumption Academy students. Our first concern is always protection of the public health and implementing reasonable, medically-approved control measures that are designed to safeguard our region’s population, including those who are most vulnerable to the threat of infectious disease.

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The Northern Kentucky Health Department provides high quality public health services to more than 400,000 residents of Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton Counties, with a goal of preventing disease, promoting wellness and protecting against health threats. The Health Department seeks to be a nationwide leader in public health, and was one of the first in the country to earn national public health accreditation. For more information, visit www.nkyhealth.org.