Chicken pox parties are something that have been fairly off the radar — well, our radar anyhow. But a recent scam to sell the chicken pox virus through the mail has brought the trend front and center, sending both parents and the media into a tizzy. The scam at hand was started by a Facebook page called “Find A Pox Party In Your Area”, which has since been deleted — because while pox parties are legal, sending any sort of virus or germs through the U.S. postal service without using a biohazard or biomedical waste service is 100% illegal. Though concerns over the mail issue have for the most part dissipated, worries over chicken pox parties have just begun. Facebook pages such “Find a Pox Party Near You” are creating a space for parents to promote parties to other parents who are willing to take their child to an infected home. In these homes, children can catch the virus and become immune without the need for vaccination. Read on to learn more.
What is Chicken Pox?
Chicken pox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Chicken pox is highly contagious and can be spread by direct contact or through the air by coughing or sneezing. This virus is also spread through direct contact with any fluid from a blister of a person infected with the virus or from contact with someone with the shingles virus. While the CDC and chicken pox party supporters point out that usually chicken pox presents as a mild problem in children, the illness is not so mild in adults. Mild and common symptoms of chicken pox include the telltale itchy rash (pox), fever, coughing, fussiness, headache, and loss of appetite and the illness can last for 5–10 days.
Adults are more likely to experience harsher chicken pox symptoms, but young children are at risk too. Advanced complications and symptoms include bacterial infection of the skin or other parts of the body including the bones, lungs, joints, and blood, pneumonia or infection of the brain. About 50 people a year suffer from infected chicken pox blisters; in some cases the bacterial infection is caused by group A streptococcus (GAS) which can lead to “flesh-eating bacteria,” or streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS). This destroys muscles, fat, and skin tissue and causes a rapid drop in blood pressure and organ failure. People die from STSS each year in the USA.
Complications aside, because the virus is often milder in children, some parents still choose exposure over vaccine, hence the chicken pox parties. However, this is a risk you should weigh carefully, as chicken pox is not so mild as it seems.