Chickenpox spreads to five Fla. public schools

Health officials in Florida added 25 students who are not vaccinated against chickenpox to a list of those barred from attending class in five public schools in High Springs and Alachua on Wednesday.

There have been 65 cases of chickenpox reported in the northwest part of Alachua County, prompting the health department to prohibit unvaccinated students from attending the Alachua Learning Center. The students will only be allowed to attend school once they get vaccinated, until they recover from a documented case of the virus or after April 25, the Gainesville Sun reports.

The schools affected by the outbreak include Santa Fe High School, Mebane Middle School, High Springs Community School, Irby Elementary School and Alachua Elementary School. The county has been red-flagged by the state due to a low rate of children entering school with a full set of vaccinations, including the vaccine against chickenpox.

The outbreak involves 25 children at the Alachua Learning Center, 26 children at the Bhaktivedanta Academy, one child in public school and 13 others - eight children, four adults and one infant. According to the health department, 26 out of 27 students attending the pre-kindergarten through sixth grade program at the academy, which leases space from the Krishna Temple at Alachua, were not vaccinated.

The chickenpox vaccine was introduced to the United States in 1995. Randy Meier, the vice president of the Krishna Temple at Alachua, said that Hare Krishna teachings do not specifically forbid vaccinations.

"The people who come to our community are from varied backgrounds -- some are regular doctors," Randy Meier, the vice president of the Krishna Temple at Alachua, said, according to the Gainesville Sun. "We don't have any particular guidelines about what they should do or shouldn't do about their medical decisions."