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Chickenpox Keeps 200 Students From Vigo County Schools

Kids play on a playground at a community center in Terre Haute

Vigo County school officials say they had no choice but to exclude more than 200 students from school this week because they lacked the chickenpox vaccination. The exclusion requirement is the result of a chickenpox outbreak in the county.

Health officials say 69 cases had been reported in the county and most involved local students. The chickenpox vaccination is required by the state of Indiana.

Director of Student Services Ray Azar says most parents have already taken care of the situation by having their child immunized, though they don’t agree with the state’s decision.

“Obviously those parents are not happy that their child could not come to school, but many of them are now taking the opportunity to get their child immunized,” he says. “So every day we see a few more come back.”

About 750 students in Terre Haute have been immunized since last Friday. But schools still blocked more than 200 students from returning.

According to state regulations, students are required to get various vaccinations before they start school, including the chickenpox vaccine.  In the 2010, almost 4,000 students in grades 6-12 remained unvaccinated in the Vigo County School Corporation.

State Superintendent Tony Bennett says the school corporation, thehealth department and others in the community workhard to minimize the problem.

“Our health department does take a big lead on that,” Bennett says. “It’s kind of their primary responsibility, but we also want to include the chamber of commerce, the businesses, the hospitals, and  we work on a couple of smaller pieces on that, but it’s all falling into a bigger part. We’ve got to make people more healthy.”

Bennett also says Indiana has a higher rate of heart attacks and cancer, so it is important to remind people to take responsibility for their own health.

The Vigo County Health Department recently conducted a chickenpox clinic at Terre Haute South High School. The Indiana State University Sycamore Nursing Center will have a clinic Thursday for children still needing the chickenpox vaccine.

Network Indiana contributed to this report.

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