A Party to Avoid
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I've been to many kinds of parties, but there's one advertised on Facebook that's hard to believe. It's called, "Chicken Pox Party Line". Oh wow, a chicken pox party?? Oh yeah. Here's another, "Find a Pox Party".
Right. These are parties where parents bring their kids to expose them to a child sick with chicken pox. They believe if their kids get the wild virus, Varicella Zoster, they'll develop a more vigorous immunity than the vaccine can provide.
But, this really stems from a continued distrust of vaccines among a subset of parents in America. Public health experts say these parents are not only misguided, but downplaying serious risks of a full blown infection. Chicken pox causes hundreds of blisters that when scratched can lead to life threatening bacterial infections. The virus can cause encephalitis, an infection of the lining of the brain. Children who get chicken pox can also develop shingles as adults, when the dormant virus comes back as a highly painful nerve disorder.
By comparison, the chicken pox vaccine, introduced in 1995, significantly lowers the risk of infection. Those vaccinated who do get infected aren't nearly as sick or contagious. They also face a lower risk of shingles later in life.
Yet, incredibly, the interest for natural infection has spurred postings on Facebook from people selling 50-dollar contaminated lollipops and infected clothing by overnight mail. Law enforcement has since cracked down, because it's illegal. Plus, the virus may not survive shipment, but other serious bacterial and viral diseases might prevail.
Parents skeptical of vaccines need to weigh the risks of infection, which are far more serious, against the few, mild side effects of a vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a severe reaction to the chicken pox vaccine is extremely rare, and only those with certain health risks should not get it. Talk to your pediatrician.