Most children are invited to birthday parties, but this kind is strangely different (and dangerous); it’s an infection party.
Deemed a “chickenpox party” or a “pox party,” the methodology behind this phenomenon isn’t new. A recent story from 9News in Colorado reported that parented in the Boulder region were organizing play dates with infected children.
“Screenshots sent to 9NEWS from the private Facebook group show strategies to get children sick,” the TV station said.
“The tenting method suggests putting a sick kid in a small space for half an hour, ensuring the enclosure is full of exhaled air. Then, add the healthy kid with some toys to keep them occupied and ‘let the party begin!’”
Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes shingles. It spreads easily to people who have never contracted it or been vaccinated.
Mainly spread by touching or breathing, the virus presents itself in blisters across the skin that eventually scabs. Once people have gotten chickenpox, it provides immunity for life. Though there are some that can get chickenpox more than once but it is highly unlikely.
Prior to the introduction of the varicella-zoster vaccine in 1995, parents would host play dates to intentionally expose their children to the ‘pox. That is because exposure, they believed, would give their children immunity to contracting it in the future.
With that being said, the methodology behind “chickenpox parties” doesn’t seem too far-fetched. However, chickenpox isn’t just about itchy blisters on the skin. It can cause severe complications for people with weakened immune systems.
Chickenpox is more than itchy skin
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a very strong reminder not to take your children to “pox parties.”
According to the CDC website, those with the highest risk of complications are infants, pregnant women, those with HIV/AIDS or cancer, transplant recipients, or those on chemotherapy, immunosuppressive medications, or long-term use of steroids.
The complications include streptococcal infection, pneumonia, encephalitis or cerebellar ataxia, bleeding problems, sepsis and dehydration. Death can occur from any combination of factors.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also posted a reminder about chickenpox on Twitter after the 9News story:
“It’s no party. Every year before the chickenpox vaccine was introduced, 10,000 people were hospitalized, and more than 100 people died from the disease.”
The CDC also reminds people that you don’t have to be unhealthy to die from the disease:
“Some deaths from chickenpox continue to occur in healthy, unvaccinated children and adults. Many of the healthy adults who died from chickenpox contracted the disease from their unvaccinated children.”
The best protection to lower the chances of infection? Vaccinate.