Despite many efforts over the years to increase immunization rates in Buncombe, there are still pockets of unimmunized individuals in our county and this puts our community at risk for outbreaks. At the 2019 North Carolina Communicable Disease Conference, members of the BCHHS Public Health Team received multiple awards from NCDHHS for their work to contain a significant outbreak of varicella (chickenpox) during the winter of 2018. The response to the outbreak involved all levels of staff from many departments and program areas including public health leadership, legal, communications, and communicable disease staff. Notable aspects and characteristics of the response include flexibility, extreme professionalism and discretion, and appropriate use of legal authority to protect the public’s health.
“The dedication and expertise of our staff in this outbreak was nothing less than exemplary, from CD nurses to Public Health Leadership to our county Legal Department," noted HHS Director Stoney Blevins. "Even though the pace was very demanding due to the nationwide media attention, and the relational aspects a bit strained due to legal proceedings, our staff maintained a diligent, kind approach to the outbreak from beginning to end that was always aimed at keeping both children and our community safe.”
The award narrative read:
“Buncombe County experienced the worst varicella outbreak in North Carolina since the vaccine became available in 1995. Despite parental resistance and a lawsuit, Buncombe County Health and Human Services maintained lines of communication with the highly unvaccinated affected school, managed to get correct information to the public, and kept their county leadership, the state, and the media apprised of the situation. Buncombe HHS has put their citizens on notice that the community remains at risk for vaccine preventable disease outbreaks. Their strong partnerships helped create a Shield of Immunity campaign with a superhero theme designed to reach directly to their children. Buncombe is our superhero and we are pleased to present this award to them.”
The Asheville Citizen Times reported regularly about the outbreak and was a great partner in providing information to the public. You can read one of their articles here to learn more about the outbreak:
What is Chickenpox?
Chickenpox is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It causes an itchy rash with small, fluid-filled blisters. Chickenpox is highly contagious to people who haven't had the disease or been vaccinated against it. Since 1995, a vaccine has been available that protects children against chickenpox. Routine vaccination is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The chickenpox vaccine is a safe, effective way to prevent chickenpox and its possible complications. Getting immunized throughout your lifetime protects you, the people you love, and our community against harmful diseases.
BCHHS Immunization Clinic
BCHHS Clinic nurses have significant experience in giving immunizations. They gave over 11,000 immunizations in FY2018! If you would like to get an immunization for your child or yourself, come by the BCHHS Immunization Clinic at 40 Coxe Ave., open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. No appointment is necessary but immunization clients need to be checked in by 4:30 p.m. Staff can also pull your immunization record and help you figure out which immunizations you need to be fully protected based on your lifestyle or occupation. The clinic can be reached at (828) 250-5096.
Pictured above are staff from Public Health, HHS Communications, and Legal.
Front row, L to R:
Ellis Vaughan, Jennifer Mullendore, Mary Backlund, Sue Ellen Morrison, Janine Shepard
Back row, L to R:
Stacey Wood, Susan Creede, Curt Euler, Molly Cassidy, Brandon Freeman