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Kentucky Court of Appeals upholds NKY Health’s actions to control chickenpox outbreak

KyForward staff

The Northern Kentucky Health Department (NKY Health) calls the Kentucky Court of Appeals’ Order issued on June 26 in the Kunkel litigation a resounding victory for public health in Kentucky.

The Court of Appeals upheld the Boone County Circuit Court’s finding that the control measures implemented by the Northern Kentucky Health Department in response to the chickenpox outbreak at Assumption Academy were reasonable, appropriate and necessary to control the spread of a highly infectious disease.

Child with chickenpox. (Photo courtesy CDC)

The litigation and appeal were filed on behalf of 18-year-old Assumption Academy student Jerome Kunkel, based on enforcement of a Northern Kentucky Health Department policy that barred him from his school and all extracurricular activities during a chickenpox outbreak.

Kunkel later contracted chickenpox, according to an attorney representing him in the litigation.

Kunkel’s symptoms reportedly appeared nearly two months after the Health Department issued the order barring students in two parochial schools who lacked proof of vaccination or immunity to the chickenpox virus from attending school or any school activities until 21 days after the last case of chickenpox appeared.

NKyHealth called for the ban in March, after 32 students, or about 13 percent of the student body, got the disease.

NKyHealth based its decision on medical evidence indicating that left uncontrolled, chickenpox, also known as varicella, can result in serious, if not deadly, consequences.

Supporting the actions of the Health Department, the Court of Appeals quoted the U.S. Supreme Court’s statement that, “Of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.”

In a release, NKY Health said the statement of law embraces the very mission of the Northern Kentucky Health Department, which strives every day to prevent disease, promote wellness and protect against health threats in the Northern Kentucky community.

The Northern Kentucky Health Department provides public health services to more than 400,000 residents of Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton Counties, with a goal of preventing disease, promoting wellness and protecting against health threats.

The Health Department seeks to be a nationwide leader in public health and was one of the first in the country to earn national public health accreditation. 

For more information, click here.

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