This has got to be one of the most bizarre, crazy and just plain disgusting stories I’ve heard in a long time.
Chickenpox is a pretty nasty disease to have. Like most adults, I went through it when I was a child because there was no vaccine at the time. It was pretty misserable, but I was lucky, because despite missing more than a week of school and being covered with an itchy, painful rash, I didn’t have any lasting effects. Some are not so lucky. It’s fairly common to be left with disfiguring scars, especially on the face, from chickenpox (I know a few people with such marks on their cheeks or forehead). It’s less common, though not unheard of to have more severe and lingering effects and occasionally even death.
The virus tends to be less severe in children than adults, there was once a custom of intentionally infecting children with the disease. So-called “pox parties” were held where children intentionally came into contact with others with chickenpox to get the disease when young. Whether exposing children to the disease intentionally was ever a justifiable idea is debatable (most medical experts think it was always a bad idea), but it certainly is not any more. These days, there is a vaccine for chickenpox that is highly effective and avoids the discomfort, suffering, dangers and possible disfigurement of the disease. The vaccine is now part of the normal vaccine schedule and most children receive it. Chickenpox is therefore far less common than it once was.
But what to do if you’re a vaccine fearing idiot? Since the antivax crowd seems to think that getting infections is a good thing and boosts the immune system, a pox party seems like it would be right up their ally. The only problem is that the vaccine has reduced the number of cases of chickenpox enough to make it difficult to find a good pathogen host to infect your kid with. So what to do? Why not use social networking to find other like-minded morons around the world and swap spit by mail with them.
The most popular and widely reported on Facebook group for doing this appears to have been recently shut down, but that’s unlikely to actually stop anyone in the long run.
I’m not even kidding…
‘Pox parties’: Coming to a mailbox near you?
This week, press reports emerged that some parents, hoping to avoid giving their kids the chickenpox vaccine, were arranging through Facebook to pay strangers to send them “[licked] lollipops, spit or other items” from kids with the illness.
The idea is to expose the kids to the virus to build immunity without having to get a shot.
It’s a lousy strategy, doctors say.
Dr. Wilbert Mason, a professor of clinical pediatrics at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and an infectious disease expert at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, said he was “dumbfounded” by the news. “I’m speechless, which will make for a very bad interview,” he told Booster Shots. “How could people be so stupid?”
For starters, he said, sending chicken poxthrough the mail probably won’t work, because the varicella virus needs cells to live in, and there probably would be very few cells in spit or on a used lollipop. “It’s unlikely the virus would survive long enough,” he said.
But more resilient types of infections — dangerous ones — could make it, including hepatitis B, group A strep, and staph germs.
Getting chickenpox “naturally” provides immunity that may be more long-lasting than immunity from the vaccinebut can cause complications. It’s rare, but children with varicella can die if they develop pneumonia or encephalitis, Mason said.
Also, chickenpox blisters often get infected, and if they get infected with invasive group A strep, “it can kill [a child] in hours,” he added.
“The most important risk factor for a child getting that infection is varicella,” he said. “Since we’ve had the varicella vaccine, we’ve seen a decrease in children with invasive group A strep. For me, that’s the most compelling reason to get it.”
Thirty years ago, it was common for parents to bring their kids over to a sick friend’s house to get exposed to chickenpox — maybe that’s why today’s “pox parties” seem like a good option to parents put off by vaccines. Mason likened the practice to playing roulette. “It was not a good idea then, and it’s still not a good idea,” he said.
A few are actually flaunting how stupid they are by telling fellow anti-vaxers about their activities.
Via WNEM, CBS 5:
The Facebook group is called “Find a Pox Party in Your Area.” According to the group’s page, it is geared toward “parents who want their children to obtain natural immunity for the chicken pox.”
On the page, parents post where they live and ask if anyone with a child who has the chicken pox would be willing to send saliva, infected lollipops or clothing through the mail.
Parents also use the page to set up play dates with children who currently have chicken pox.
Medical experts say the most troubling part of this is parents are taking pathogens from complete strangers and deliberately infecting their children.
One concern is that they are sending the virus through the mail.
A Facebook post reads, “I got a Pox Package in mail just moments ago. I have two lollipops and a wet rag and spit.” Another woman warns, “This is a federal offense to intentionally mail a contagion.”
Another woman answers, “Tuck it inside a zip lock baggy and then put the baggy in the envelope Don’t put anything identifying it as pox.”
The chickenpox virus may or may not survive being mailed. In most cases, it probably won’t. Still, for those who might not realize this: it is generally considered to be a bad idea to intentionally ingest the bodily fluids of random people you don’t know and meet on the internet. (Granted some people do this for fun, but at least that involves some other benefits.) It’s certainly not a good idea to do it with someone who is infected with a disease and may be carrying other infections. And if they do have any bacteria infections, putting the biological material on a sugary item and placing it in a warm envelope is not going to do anything to prevent that bacteria from multiplying.
In other words: what the hell are these people thinking???
Thankfully, the law seems to be on the side of reason on this issue. It is generally illegal to intentionally send infectious diseases by mail, except under special circumstances, such as properly isolated and prepared laboratory samples, shipped with appropriate bio-hazardous safeguards. Federal prosecutors have made it clear that they are willing to charge those who violate the law.
Via Third Age:
Chickenpox Lollipops By Mail? Illegal, Prosecutor Warns
Parents receiving chickenpox-infected lollipops through the mail are breaking the law, a federal prosecutor tells the Associated Press.
Spurred by reports aired in the past week about parents turning to Facebook to procure items said to be infected with chickenpox, U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin hopes to make it clear that trafficking in infectious diseases is illegal Ă˘â‚¬â€ť as well as unsafe.
“If you are engaged in this type of behavior, you’re not only potentially exposing innocent people to dangerous viruses and illnesses and diseases, you’re also exposing yourself potentially to federal criminal prosecution,” Martin told The Associated Press.
According to Martin, it is a federal crime to send diseases or viruses across state lines, whether through the U.S. Postal Service or private services like FedEx or UPS. The same laws that prohibit, say, the mailing the of anthrax also apply to infectious diseases: Offenders, if convicted, could face up to 20 years in prison.
The hubbub comes in the wake of the growing popularity of so-called chickenpox parties, organized by parents in order to expose their children to chickenpox and thereby strengthen their immune systems. As WSMV-TV in Nashville reported Thursday, parents without entree to such events are increasingly turning to internet dealers purporting to sell lollipops, among other items, infected with the chickenpox virus.
I fully expect to hear a lot of whining about how this is more proof that the government and judicial system are firmly in the pocket of the big evil corporations and how they are stopping parents from exercising their rights to do things the “natural” way. The antivaccine groups always seem to have had a persecution complex. Still, I hope that this warning will be enough to stop most from engaging in this illegal, dangerous and disgusting practice, though I’m sure it won’t stop them all.
I suppose the next thing will be swapping contaminated feces to infect children with polio in order to get a “natural” immunity.
This entry was posted on Monday, November 7th, 2011 at 8:24 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Culture, Just LAME, Not Even Wrong, Quackery, media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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