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Chickenpox Outbreak At Northern Kentucky School, Student Sues

Nick Youngson

A chickenpox outbreak has swept a Northern Kentucky school. There are 32 cases of illness at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Assumption Academy in Walton. The Northern Kentucky Health Department now says unvaccinated students must stay home until 21 days after the onset of rash for the last ill student. In rare cases chickenpox can be deadly, especially for infants and pregnant women.

An 18-year-old Assumption Academy student has filed a lawsuit against the Northern Kentucky Health Department. Jerome Kunkel claims health officials are violating his freedom of religion by barring him from school and extracurricular activities because he refuses to get the chickenpox vaccine.

The Northern Kentucky Health Department has released a statement addressing the lawsuit which reads:

"We are aware of the lawsuit filed by Jerome Kunkel, and want to state that the actions taken by the Health Department with respect to Assumption Academy were done consistent with this agency’s statutory charge to protect the public health.

"Chickenpox, also known as varicella, can be a very serious illness that is especially dangerous for infants and pregnant women or anyone who has a weakened immune system. The recent actions taken by the Northern Kentucky Health Department regarding the chickenpox outbreak at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy was in direct response to a public health threat and was an appropriate and necessary response to prevent further spread of this contagious illness."

A hearing on the Kunkel lawsuit is scheduled for April 1 in Boone County Circuit Court.

Joining Cincinnati Edition to discuss this recent chickenpox outbreak and what the public should know about the spread of the virus is Pediatric Associates Pediatrician Mark Deis, M.D.

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Michael Monks brings a broad range of experience to WVXU-FM as the host of Cincinnati Edition, Cincinnati Public Radio's weekday news and information talk show.