Do you remember having chicken pox?
Oh boy, I sure do!
I was about six or seven years old and it was bad. Still, I’m not sure if I remember because I had such a bad case or because it made me miss Halloween that year.
It was almost certainly both, as I remember being covered in spots from head to toe.
What I don’t recall is having many visitors. Why didn’t my mom throw me a chicken pox party!
I also don’t remember going to a chicken pox party to get sick.
Believe It or Not, Chicken Pox Parties Are Still a Thing
Whether or not chicken pox parties were ever that popular, the approval of the chicken pox vaccine in 1995 should have put an end to the practice.
“Chickenpox (varicella) is generally a much milder illness in children than in adults, with considerably lower rates of severe disease and death. Varicella is also virtually universal in many populations, meaning that very few individuals escape infection over a lifetime. Thus, a sound logic underlies the idea of chickenpox parties, at which susceptible children can acquire the contagious causative pathogen, varicella zoster virus (VZV), from their peers. However, chickenpox is not without risks, even for children of this age; severe, complicated, and occasionally fatal varicella occur in previously healthy children, as well as the immunocompromised (who are at very considerable risk).”
Hambleton et al on Chickenpox Party or Varicella Vaccine?
Most folks understand that. They get their kids vaccinated and have helped get chicken pox under very good control, with outbreaks of chicken pox declining over 95%.
“Each year, more than 3.5 million cases of varicella, 9,000 hospitalizations, and 100 deaths are prevented by varicella vaccination in the United States”
CDC on Monitoring the Impact of Varicella Vaccination
Apparently, not everyone has gotten the message though.
Remember when CPS had to investigate the mom who was having chicken pox parties in Plano, Texas a few years ago?
“On the page, parents post where they live and ask if anyone with a child who has the chicken pox would be willing to send saliva, infected lollipops or clothing through the mail.”
CBS 5 Investigates mail order diseases
Or when anti-vaccine folks were selling and mailing lollipops contaminated with chicken pox to folks so that they could skip the trouble of finding a chicken pox party?
And then there’s that time that a family served chicken pox contaminated punch at their chicken pox party. Oh wait, that was The Simpsons…
So what are they up to now?
More of the same…
Apparently, there are still plenty of folks looking for chicken pox parties to infect their kids.
It is easy to see a lot of cognitive biases at play in the decision to host or bring a child to a chicken pox party, including ambiguity aversion (prefer what they think are the known risks of getting the disease), bandwagoning (they think everyone else is doing it, because in their echo chambers of anti-vaccine propaganda, everyone might), and optimism bias, etc.
In bigger news, Facebook has groups who’s mission is “finding pox,” so that parents can get their kids sick!
How many other PoX type groups are there on Facebook?
How many other parents are intentionally not vaccinating their kids and intentionally exposing them to chicken pox?
Do any of them quarantine or isolate their kids for 10 to 21 days after the chicken pox party, so as to not expose anyone who is too young to be vaccinated, too young to be fully vaccinated, or has a true medical exemption to getting vaccinated, including those who are immunocompromised?
Do they understand the consequences of having these pox parties?
Of course, an investigation from CPS, the health department, or a medical board isn’t the most serious consequence that should discourage folks from hosting or attending a chicken pox party.
Chicken pox can be a serious, even life-threatening infection. Sure, many kids just get a mild case, but others get more serious cases and have bad complications, including skin infections, encephalitis, sepsis, or stroke.
And some people do still die from chicken pox, which is supposed to be a mild, childhood illness.
“This report describes a varicella death in an unvaccinated, previously healthy adolescent aged 15 years.”
Varicella Death of an Unvaccinated, Previously Healthy Adolescent — Ohio, 2009
Fortunately, these deaths have been nearly eliminated thanks to the chicken pox vaccine.
More on Chicken Pox Parties
- Colorado Facebook groups organize play dates to intentionally share chickenpox
- Living With Consequences of Chickenpox
- MMWR – Varicella Death of an Unvaccinated, Previously Healthy Adolescent — Ohio, 2009
- MMWR – Notes from the Field: Varicella-Associated Death of a Vaccinated Child with Leukemia — California, 2012
- MMWR – Notes from the Field: Severe Varicella in an Immunocompromised Child Exposed to an Unvaccinated Sibling with Varicella — Minnesota, 2011
- MMWR – Varicella-Related Deaths — United States, January 2003–June 2004
- MMWR – Varicella-Related Deaths Among Children — United States, 1997
- MMWR – Varicella-Related Deaths — Florida, 1998
- CDC – Monitoring the Impact of Varicella Vaccination
- Study – Varicella-Associated Stroke
- Five Varicella Deaths That Could Have Been Prevented
- CDC – Chickenpox Can Be Serious
- Study – Near Elimination of Varicella Deaths in the US After Implementation of the Vaccination Program
- MMWR – Epidemiology of Varicella During the 2-Dose Varicella Vaccination Program — United States, 2005–2014
- Stroke: An underappreciated complication of chickenpox that we should never see
- A Recent Case Report Highlights Why Skipping the Chickenpox Vaccine is a Bad Idea
- Varicella and influenza vaccines may reduce morbidity in patients with blood cancers
- Moms Who Vax: Pox and the Social Contract
- Chicken Pox Party: RSVP No
- Chickenpox parties?? Natural immunity is NOT better.
- Chickenpox can kill – it’s a myth to believe otherwise
- Chickenpox Parties: A Pediatrician Perspective
- Chickenpox party or varicella vaccine?
- Chickenpox parties–just a Facebook friend away
- Pox parties taken to the next (illegal) level
- “Pox packages,” child abuse, and the violation of federal law
- ‘Pox Parties’ and Bioterrorism
- Pox by Post
- Crashing the Pox Party
- Orgies of Death – The Dangerous Tradition of Pox Parties and Measles Teas
- Pox Populi
- CBS 5 Investigates mail order diseases
- CPS Responds After Chickenpox Party In Plano
- What Not To Buy Online: Lollipops Laced With Chickenpox
- ‘Pox Parties’ in the Age of Facebook
- Study – Polarization of the vaccination debate on Facebook.
- Study – Mapping the anti-vaccination movement on Facebook