Gov. Exposed Kids to Chickenpox

From the WebMD Archives

March 21, 2019 -- Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin's revelation that he exposed his children to chickenpox so they would get the disease and become immune is "unfortunate" and "not an example" for others, an infectious diseases expert said Wednesday.


In an interview this week on a local radio station, the Republican governor said all of his children "got the chickenpox on purpose because we found a neighbor that had it, and I went and made sure every one of my kids was exposed to it, and they got it," the Associated Press reported.


Bevin and his wife, Glenna, have nine children, four adopted. In the radio interview, he said government shouldn't mandate the vaccination. His comments come after reports this week of a chickenpox outbreak at a Kentucky Catholic school.


In Kentucky, children entering kindergarten are required to be vaccinated for chickenpox, but parents may seek religious exemptions or provide proof that a child already had the disease.


Public health officials strongly discourage the practice of deliberately exposing children to chickenpox, Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, told the AP.


Bevin's actions are "unfortunate and not an example for any of us," he said.


"We should vaccinate all our children. It's a great triumph of public health in the United States. Let's not take a step backward," Schaffner told the AP.


"What the governor and other like-minded folks are unaware of is that there are potentially serious complications of chickenpox," he warned.


Those complications can include bacterial infections, pneumonia and inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.