If you think buying a lollipop contaminated with saliva from senders whose children are infected will protect your kids from chicken pox, think again – because it probably won’t. More likely, you will be exposing them to more serious infections, such as hepatitis. A US attorney in Nashville, Jerry Martin, said not only is it unsafe to mail such contagious items, it is also illegal.

After being interviewed by WSMV-TV regarding virus exchanges in Tennessee via online social media websites, Martin decided to speak out.

According to WSMV-TV, a woman in Nashville, Tennessee was sending parents chicken-pox lollipops she claimed were contaminated with her sick children’s saliva at $50 dollars per lollipop.

Some people are under the mistaken idea that by doing this they will expose their children to chicken pox virus, thus bypassing the need for the formal vaccine. The parents, virtually all of them lay people, believe that this method is more effective and safer than receiving a vaccination. There have been other similar parties in the past for such diseases as measles. If a child has the disease earlier in life, there is a smaller risk of complications, compared to adults who get the diseases. This is true for hepatitis A, mumps and chicken pox, and some other diseases.

The problem with ‘inoculation parties’ organized by lay people without any public health authority cooperation or supervision is quality control (e.g. accidental risks from shipping), lack of efficacy statistics, and the likelihood of unexpected infections. Pediatricians say children exposed to such practices have a higher risk of developing encephalitis and group A strep.

Most health care professional see this as utter lunacy. Other scientists say it is simply a scam for making money and taking advantage of gullible people.

WSMV-TV’s Channel 41-Team discovered a network of adults who deliver diseases to each other. Termed “Chicken Pox Parties”, parents organize get-togethers through social media sites, such as Facebook, with the aim of exposing their children to viruses so their immunity protects them early in life. Doctors, immunologists and virologists say this is an extremely dangerous practice for the children and also their families.

One of the Facebook pages called “Find A Pox Party In Your Area” was found to be a place where parents can purchase viruses. By making a ‘charitable donation’ they can buy contaminated saliva, often carried on sweets or other goodies children like, or washcloths and Q-tips. On that web page you can also trade and sell such stuff.

The webpage apparently even gives tips on how to ship contaminated sweets across state lines without being found out. It openly warns that it is a federal offense to send these items by mail.

Before the advent of vaccines, smallpox parties and other types of controlled inoculation did reduce death rates due to, for example smallpox, considerably. They all fell by the wayside as soon as the smallpox vaccine was introduced. In some parts of the world, “Rubella Parties” were created as a rite of passage for girls reaching puberty after a link between rubella infection and the risk of birth defects was established.

Chicken pox parties were popular in the USA until the Varicella vaccine was introduced in 1995.

When the swine flu came out, the New York Times reported on various web pages where people were actively debated the advantages of “Swine Flu Parties”. Experts contributed their opinions, sympathizing with the logic, but explaining that they were against it. Many people wondered whether by exposing themselves to the then mild virus strain, they might be protecting themselves from future epidemics when more virulent strains might be in circulation.

Dr. Anne Moscona, a flu specialist at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, was interviewed by the NY Times regarding swine flu parties, and said:

“I think it’s totally nuts. I can’t believe people are really thinking of doing it. I understand the thinking, but I just fear we don’t know enough about how this virus would react in every individual. This is like the Middle Ages, when people deliberately infected themselves with smallpox. It’s vigilante vaccination – you know, taking immunity into your own hands.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist