The Pox Party pops over the top on Facebook

The Pox Party pops over the top on Facebook

Summary: Some people have taken the pox party idea too far, by trading in pox-infected lollipops on Facebook. This is very disturbing.

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In the news of the weird today, people are using Facebook to organize "Pox Parties." For those of you who don't know what a pox party is, it's the controversial, if time-honored, tradition of getting kids together for a playdate with a child who has already contracted chickenpox, in order to purposely infect the well children with chickenpox.

The somewhat iffy rationale behind this practice is to get the chickenpox over and done with while the kids are young and won't be too bothered by the virus. Involving Facebook in the process of organizing such ill-advised events is probably inevitable, since many people like to use Facebook as a tool for facilitating gatherings.

When I was growing up, there was no vaccine for chickenpox, more officially referred to as the Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV). The vaccine was introduced in the United States in 1995. My mom thought pox parties were barbaric and constituted child abuse, so she avoided exposing my brother and me to sick playmates. I'm not going to tell you she was wrong (especially since chickenpox can have some potentially serious complications, one of which is actually death).

What I will tell you is that having the chickenpox at the age of 19 sucks. I caught it from my brother, who was 16 at the time. I was very sick for at least two weeks of what seemed like eternity. I still have scars.

According to the CDC, the best alternative to this dilemma is the Varicella vaccination (unless a Neosporin /neomycin allergy or one of a few other contraindications is present). This protects against the virus and gives better immunity against future outbreaks of shingles for the person who is vaccinated.

However, as community exposure to the chickenpox virus is minimized due to increased vaccine immunity, the serious, painful, and debilitating mess that is Herpes Zoster, or shingles, has increased among older adults. Although a vaccine is available for shingles, it's not recommended for people under the age of 60 (although shingles can actually strike before that age). Many people who might really benefit from the shingles vaccine aren't getting it for a number of reasons, which include lack of knowledge about shingles or the fact that a vaccine even exists, lack of insurance reimbursement, cost, and availability.

Lots of people are down on vaccines these days. I guess I have to respect peoples' right to their opinions (even if I truly don't respect the opinions themselves). I will disclose here that, as a nurse, I am pretty positive about vaccines. I think they beat the alternative.

When the Pox Party pops over the top

Some people have taken the pox party idea too far, by offering pox-infected lollipops for sale on Facebook. This is very disturbing. I mean, if a parent doesn't feel good about a carefully researched and engineered CDC-recommended vaccine, how can that parent possibly feel good about mail-ordering and putting a randomly infected lollipop in a child's mouth?

Some of the issues with this include the following items.

Who knows where that lollipop has been? What if it contains other diseases? There are a whole host of really scary communicable diseases out there, and there's no guarantee that the kid sharing his chickenpox isn't also sharing some other nasty free bonus infection.

It's illegal to ship diseases for good reason! How many people will handle the infected package? What if someone who handles that box-o-pox gets sick?

There's a reason they ask you if you're mailing anything hazardous, fragile, or perishable when you're sending something. Could a case be made that this can be considered a form of bioterrorism?

Community members with weakened immune systems are endangered by this practice, and certainly do not need yet another hazard in their midst.

The child infected with Varicella today may grow up to have Herpes Zoster later in life, which can be very debilitating.

What if the lollipop has been drugged or otherwise tampered with by some sicko?

Last, and probably least, what if the random person selling the lollipop is just ripping you off?

That's just a quick list off the top of my head. According to the New York Times Well blog, law enforcement officials have been clamping down on this practice of shipping infected items, warning of possible long jail terms.

Facebook posts advertising infected lollipops and other items have been removed as of this writing, but could always crop up again.

If you see more misguided examples of this sort of crime, it might be a good idea to let someone in a position of authority know about it so that it can be stopped. Before it hurts someone.

What's your opinion of the Facebook pox pops, or of pox parties in general? Share your chickenpox stories in the TalkBacks below.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Health

About

Denise Amrich is a Registered Nurse, the health care advisor for the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute, and a mentor for the Virtual Campus at Florida's Brevard Community College.


Nothing in this article is meant to be a substitute for medical advice, and shouldn't be considered as such. If you are in need of medical help, please see your doctor.

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Talkback

26 comments
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  • RE: The Pox Party pops over the top on Facebook

    Anyone who buys a used lollipop from a stranger over the Internet with the intent to their kids hoping they get chicken pox should have Child Protection Services arrive promptly at their door to remove the kids from the custody of parents who are obviously too stupid to raise children responsibly.

    I can see maybe if one of your kids gets it, then maybe you expose your other kids to it just to accelerate the inevitable and get it over with, but this taking it to a whole different level.
    TroyMcClure
    • RE: The Pox Party pops over the top on Facebook

      @piousmonk

      Well, we are talking Facebook users here... I actually am not surprised.
      UrNotPayingAttention
      • RE: The Pox Party pops over the top on Facebook

        @UrNotPayingAttention Yeah, G+ users would never do it :))))
        Tomas M.
  • Prior to the chickenpox vaccine, pox parties WERE the vaccine. And

    the reason you infected your child at a young age is because pre-puberty, chicken pox is harmless. Post puberty, it can be life threatening. So you vaccinated your child by exposing him to it at a young age, so he wouldn't suffer serious illness, scarring, potential sterility or possible death by contracting the disease as a teenager. So, in the name of avoiding child abuse, your mom actually put your life at risk by not exposing you to the virus when it was harmless.
    baggins_z
    • RE: The Pox Party pops over the top on Facebook

      @baggins_z

      The thing is, we're not talking about exposing one of your children who hasn't yet had chicken pox to another of your children that does. We're talking about doing it via a lollipop purchased over the Internet. They are far from the same thing and have the potential for very different end results.
      TroyMcClure
    • RE: The Pox Party pops over the top on Facebook

      @baggins_z <br>Granted that this is a true statemant, one very important word here is PRIOR.<br>So first off, there IS a vacine. Since the virus is either weakened or dead, it poses even less risk.<br>Second, we aren't talking about people exposing young children to other local children, we are talking about sending infected materials thru the mail. Even if you discount the risk of the lolipop being contaminated with other, worse, diseases, you are also potentially exposing all of Postal workers. There is a very good chance that several of them will have no immunity, so the person that sent the package would be responsible for any of the effects that you bring up.
      VBJackson
    • RE: The Pox Party pops over the top on Facebook

      @baggins_z
      Wrong, wrong, wrong!
      No, it's not harmless to young children. Chicken Pox can cause serious problems at any age. Yes, it's often worse in older kids and adults, but it's not harmless at any age. And the risk of shingles is still there, too.
      Disclaimer: I am a pediatrician, and yes, I encourage parents to get every approved vaccine for their children.
      Have you ever seen a child die from chicken pox? I have -- it's not something I want to see ever again.
      The vaccine is safer than the disease, and lessens the risk of shingles, too.
      MosheAdler@...
  • Shingles vaccine

    Is now available for 50 and older.
    jtdavies
  • RE: The Pox Party pops over the top on Facebook

    Pox parties are a great idea. Buying pox lollypops from strangers is risky.
    janicenino
  • RE: The Pox Party pops over the top on Facebook

    Some looney tune will try this with AIDS and who knows what else. Get your IQ tested and if it's below your actual age, "Just say No!"
    trm1945
    • RE: The Pox Party pops over the top on Facebook

      @trm1945
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bugchaser
      jabster17
    • I know what you're trying to say, but, your age vs IQ test is flawed...

      There are people out there with IQs higher than 100 and even well above that. Yet, their ages could be 20 and below. What would those people do with your suggestion? Yeah, I know they'd be smart enough to know better, but, I'm just saying that your test is very faulty. <br><br>Your test would be most valid with people over 100 years old, if the average IQ were to be 100.
      adornoe
  • RE: The Pox Party pops over the top on Facebook

    Well I just figured out why Denise Amrich is writing health stories instead of working on the floor...
    russ_hillis
  • RE: The Pox Party pops over the top on Facebook

    Any parent stupid enough to buy/recieve a lollipop infected with chickenpox over the internet deserves to get one that has been dipped in LSD.
    UrNotPayingAttention
  • Respecting Anti-Vaccinators' Right To Their Opinions--No!

    No you should not "respect" people's "right" not to vaccinate. If the consequences were only personal to them, then it would be fine, but they're not, because such people are effectively freeloaders on the vaccinated majority around them--the only thing protecting non-vaccinated people from catching the disease is because they are so unlikely to come into contact with someone who might [i]have[/i] the disease.

    Vaccines only work if some minimum threshold (which might be 80-90%, depending on the disease) of the population has been given them. If too many people elect not to vaccinate, then the proportion drops below the safe threshold, and suddenly [i]everybody[/i] is at risk from the disease.
    ldo17
    • RE: The Pox Party pops over the top on Facebook

      @ldo17
      I'm with ido17.
      Anti vaccine wackos are anti social.
      mickstjo
      • Think ZD's servers have the pox!

        I only posted this message ONCE, now its having a party and vectoring all over the place lol

        Sort it out, ZD. You're always wrecking my posts.
        SiO2
  • RE: The Pox Party pops over the top on Facebook

    Unbelievable.

    And I thought pox parties were stupid, because all they do is spread the active virus and increase the number of vectors into the community around them. Vaccines are dead or modified not to vector...

    Just think, if everyone went to a pox party as a child, the entire ADULT population would then be immune! And lets face it, only adults need to be wary of the Pox dont they? Its harmless to kids.

    WRONG. It can cause scarring and increases the risk of Shingles as an adult. And it sucks as much for a child as for an adult. They dont have a choice though, and being deliberately infected by ones parents is to me tantamount to abuse.

    Chicken pox infests the entire body and causes lesions internally as well as the visible blebs on the skin. The younger a child is when scarred, the larger that scar will be when its fully grown - and this includes all the lesions inside the organs, gut lining and nerve tracks that the virus typically invades. Its not harmless...

    There was no vaccine when I was a kid, I caught the pox from school like we mostly did back then. I have some big scars on my forehead, predominantly at the hairline and a big patch of scars at the base of my spine. The rest are random but theres enough to impact where I've chosen to put tattoos, as scar tissue doesnt colour the same as regular skin, or tan the same, come to that. It annoys me, but not as much as it would have had my parents chosen for me.

    As for the rest, Denise tells just it like it is... Unbelievable!
    SiO2
  • RE: The Pox Party pops over the top on Facebook

    I just want to tell the people that you are not alone even when you have an STD! There are so many people who have the same situation as you. Also, there are many online communities for you to find support and dating! I recommend you to read the STD inspirational stories on the largest STD support and dating site HerpesLove.n e t. Hope that you find the stories helpful and informative.
    chloe1023
  • you are not alone even when you have an STD!

    I just want to tell the people that you are not alone even when you have an STD! There are so many people who have the same situation as you. Also, there are many online communities for you to find support and dating! I recommend you to read the STD inspirational stories on the largest STD support and dating site HerpesLove.n e t. Hope that you find the stories helpful and informative.
    chloe1023