Sunday, November 20, 2011
Fail: Five Reasons Why Pox Parties are a Bad Idea
This is a great image, I´m not sure who drew it but I found it at this blog, in a post about a "fun" pox party.
You may have read recently that last month a few parents got together on facebook to organize pox parties for their kids. It was even in the New York Times. Some of the plans included sending infected items - such as lollipops - through the mail to share with other parents who wanted their children exposed to chicken pox. The idea is to go ahead and expose the children so that they will gain natural immunity. Chicken pox can be deadly in adults who never had it as children.
But guys, organic is not always better.
This story is enough to make anyone with an MD or MPH hit their head on a wall. Since 1995 there has been an effective vaccine against varicella/chicken pox. Prior to that there were approximately 4,000,000 cases and 100 deaths each year in the US. Since the vaccine was added to the routine schedule, cases have dropped 90%.
Here are five reasons why pox parties and organic immunity to varicella are a BAD IDEA:
1. Herpes Zoster
The varicella virus will never leave your body. Once you´ve had chicken pox, you are at greater risk for someday experiencing the joys of herpes zoster, otherwise known as shingles. Shingles is a contagious, painful, nerve-stinging rash that can affect people later in life, especially when their immunity is low (that´s why so many older people suffer from it.) If you´ve never had chicken pox, you are at much less risk for experiencing shingles later in life.
Prior to the vaccine there were 100 - 150 deaths each year and thousands of hospitalizations. Varicella is a virus, and no matter the lollipops and games of twister popular at pox parties, you cannot control it. You can´t decided ahead of time that your child will get a mild case that doesn´t leave deep scars or require a trip to the emergency room.
3. Mailing Toxic Agents...it´s illegal.
If you want to have a private pox party in your own living room, that´s between you and your children who may later thank you the scars and shingles. But do not mail intentionally infected material through the mail. The Federal Government makes it pretty clear that sending biochemical toxins through our national mail service is a crime.
4. There is a Vaccine.
And it doesn´t cause autism, it isn´t part of a government conspiracy. It has lead to a dramatic reduction of chicken pox cases which means less hospitalization, less days missed from school. No pox scars, less risk of shingles. Should I say it again: Vaccines do not cause autism. There is no reason to give your children "organic immunity."
5. Herd Immunity
This one requires us to suspend our selfish motives and think about other people. There is a certain percentage of any population that cannot be vaccinated. Pregnant women, people with autoimmune conditions, people on chemotherapy, babies, the uninsured. These people can be protected from disease if enough of the eligible population gets vaccinated. When you intentionally turn your children into little varicella incubators, they can unintentionally spread the disease to people who haven´t been vaccinated because of their contraindications.
Pox parties are nothing new. In fact, they are a pretty medieval way of preventing disease. If you are not convinced by the reasons above, let me recommend reading the great book, Octavian Nothing. There is a pretty harrowing account of a small pox party.
Do the right thing, vaccinate your kids, don´t take them to pox parties.
Posts about Immunization