A Kentucky teenager who sued the local health department over vaccinations has contracted chicken pox.
Jerome Kunkel, 18, is a senior at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy in Walton, Kentucky. Roughly 90% of the students at the school are unvaccinated due to religious beliefs. The vaccine for chicken pox is produced using cells descended from a pregnancy terminated in 1966.
According to his attorney, the student contracted the disease about 2 weeks ago, and has since recovered and returned to school.
The temporary ban was put into place due to a widespread outbreak of the virus in the area schools, in order to protect those who are unvaccinated.
Contracting chicken pox in your teens can lead to more serious illnesses, including hydrocephaly (water on the brain), pneumonia, and even death in those who have a compromised immune system (such as cancer patients on chemo), those who are already ill, pregnant women, the very young, and the very old.
Even otherwise healthy people can get very ill and die from the virus. There are approximately 100 deaths each year from chicken pox. The vaccine has been available since 1995. Almost all deaths were of people who were unvaccinated.
Getting the vaccination within 3 days of exposure has a 90% success rate in preventing you from contracting the disease.
The virus can also plague individuals who contracted chicken pox later in life. Although the lesions heal in about 2 weeks, the virus can remain in the nerve endings near the spinal cord and brain for the remainder of your life. Shingles can develop from the latent virus, often brought on by stress and other factors . There is also a vaccination for shingles, and it is recommended for adults over 60 who had chicken pox.