Concerns about chickenpox grow in Indiana after cases in Vigo, Parke counties

Concerns are growing about chickenpox in Indiana.

Two Terre Haute schools are fighting a chickenpox outbreak—and a Parke County school announced Wednesday that it would exclude students without chickenpox vaccinations.

Vigo County health officials said the problem isn’t limited solely to the western part of the state.

“We’ve seen an abnormally large number of cases here in Vigo County, but we’re starting to see the trend across the state,” said Joni Wise of the Vigo County Health Department. “Marion County is also starting to experience a large number of chickenpox cases.”

A childhood infectious disease specialist at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health said the number of cases gives him concern.

“They have seen according to what’s been published over 50 cases as of this year compared two 22 in the previous two or three years,” said Dr. John Christenson.

Christenson said too many people consider chickenpox a childhood disease, adding that an outbreak could trigger a super-infection such as staph or MRSA.

“In some cases the serious infection of the skin that in some cases that requires the amputation of a limb,” Christenson said. “I have had family members of mine that have been affected by chickenpox who have been hospitalized and in some cases even died.”

He said this breakthrough infection is happening because children aren't getting their required vaccinations and he says parents need to know these vaccinations are safe.

“We know very well that this has been studied extensively, that the vaccines are not going to lead to autism, they're not going to lead to mental retardation,” Christensen said. “However, we also need to emphasize to them the importance that these vaccines are very effective in preventing disease.”

Parke County officials revealed Wednesday that eight cases of chickenpox have been diagnosed in the Southwest Parke School Corporation. As a precaution, students who haven’t had two properly administered doses of the chickenpox vaccine are being excluded from school until they get the vaccine or until 21 days following the last exposure in school.

The county health department and school have organized two immunization clinics for students, faculty, staff and their families. Those will be at Riverton Parke Jr./Sr. High School and Rosedale Elementary. About 230 people are expected to attend one of the clinics.

Click here for more information about chickenpox or visit the State Health Department’s website.

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