Chickenpox parties were originally created by parents leery of vaccinating their children, preferring natural immunization instead. While these used to be local events, parents are turning to online groups to order contaminated saliva, lollipops and Q-tips to give their children in order to allow them to contract chickenpox and subsequently develop immunity to the disease. While many people including doctors believe in these parties as a more efficient way of building immunity, the idea that they are now trusting complete strangers to ship them virally contaminated items via the mail is opening up their children to a variety of dangers.
Federal prosecutors are already issuing warnings about the practice, citing not only the potential legal issues but the health risks as well. While it is unlikely that these items will actually cause a chickenpox infection, the virus needs a cell to live in and would probably not be able to survive the trip through the mail, they could expose children to far more serious and resilient viruses such as strep, staph and hepatitis B.
Experts also point out that it is illegal to ship infectious diseases through the U.S. Mail. Parents who are participating in these parties are risking the possibility of going to jail for up to 20 years; the same penalty that applies to ship contagions like anthrax.
Before the chickenpox vaccine was available many parents would expose their children to chickenpox so that they could contract it at a young age and avoid the more serious consequences that can occur in infections in adults. While many parents still have concerns about the efficacy of the vaccine doctors insist that it is safe and that deaths caused by chickenpox have been reduced drastically since the vaccine hit the market in 2005.
According to Dr. Sarah Long of the American Academy of Pediatrics exposing your children intentionally to a virus is a bad idea. “The notion that you would willingly expose your child to the naturally virulent strong virus when there is the opportunity to have a virus in its weakened form that’s as immugenic just makes no sense to me whatsoever.”
If the fear of giving your child something intentionally contaminated by a complete stranger isn’t deterrent enough to stay away from this terrible new trend perhaps the threat of serious jail time will be.