The Chicken Pox Party: Parents Caught Infecting Kids With Virus

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State health officials are cracking down on parents who are organizing parties or buying tainted products in an attempt boost immunity

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In an apparent effort to boost their kids' immunity against the chicken pox virus, some parents have resorted to having chicken pox parties or buying pox-tainted products. Now state health officials and prosecutors are cracking down on these parents who play "Russian roulette" with their children's health, since in the most severe cases the virus can be fatal.

Some parents have been nabbed for putting together remote "pox parties" to expose healthy kids to the chicken pox virus, and for sending pox-infected lollipops through the mail. There is more than one way this last practice is illegal: sending viruses through the mail and tampering with consumer products are both unlawful activities.

The trend is particularly confounding since the chicken pox vaccine is widely available and effective in preventing the virus and reducing its severity in people who do contract it. Getting the vaccine also reduces the risk of developing shingles later in life.

Rafael Harpaz of the CDC's Division of Viral Diseases says that the availability of the vaccine has significantly decreased the number of deaths associated with the virus. But infecting kids intentionally is "an incredibly bad idea for a variety of reasons." "Before the vaccine was licensed, there were in the order of 100 kids (in the U.S.) who died of chicken pox per year," he said. "Now there are very few among vaccinated children.... It's kind of like playing Russian roulette with your child."

Tennessee's state epidemiologist, Tim Jones, has been quoted as saying that sending infected candies and other products through the mail is "utterly inexcusable. In this case, these are people who are buying and selling infected or contaminated body fluids from complete strangers." The phenomenon has been traced to a Facebook group called "Find a Pox Party in Your Area," although other similar groups also exist on the social network.

Hopefully, as more parents become aware of the dangers associated with the practice, more will speak up if they see it happening in their area. If you're concerned about the chicken pox virus, talk to you child's doctor, particularly about the pros and cons of having your child vaccinated against it.

Image: Zametalov/Shutterstock.


This article originally appeared on TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow.com, an Atlantic partner site.

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Alice G. Walton, PhD, is a health journalist and an editor at The Doctor Will See You Now.

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