The anti-vaxers are holding Pox Parties to intentionally infect their kids.

The malaria party was David's idea.

Cartoon by XKCD (http://xkcd.com/51/).

I write about stupid people pretty often so I’m not often surprised by what they do, but this surprised me. Apparently there is a group on Facebook which you can join to find out about Pox Parties in your area or to arrange to have infected items sent to you from other anti-vaxer parents. All so you can deliberately infect your kids with a potentially serious disease:

CBS 5 Investigates mail order diseases – CBS 5 – KPHO.

The Facebook group is called “Find a Pox Party in Your Area.” According to the group’s page, it is geared toward “parents who want their children to obtain natural immunity for the chicken pox.”

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.

I’m sure the postal workers are just thrilled that people are sending packages containing items with a highly contagious pathogen through the postal service.  I’m willing to bet that’s a violation of a number of both federal and local laws, but I haven’t actually checked to find out.

But even if it isn’t illegal to send infectious diseases through the mail the thing these idiots aren’t considering is this: If you allow other people to expose their kids to your infected child and one of those other kids develops complications and/or dies, you could be held liable for the injury/death. 

It seems these parties have been going on for a few years now and the folks over at the Science Based Medicine blog wrote about it last year. Here’s the part on Pox Parties and liability:

“Chicken pox parties” present an interesting case. For the parent supplying the diseased child to the “party” the prospect of liability should be particularly troubling. She is not negligently spreading her child’s disease — she isintentionally spreading it. Intentional torts automatically subject the defendant to the possibility of punitive damages, which are usually based on the defendant’s net worth. The whole point is to make sure the defendant is financially punished for her actions — in other words, to take enough money that it hurts.

Punitive damages are on top of actual damages, such as medical bills, and pain and suffering. As in the above hypothetical, while the recovery of parents subjecting their children to the virus can be reduced — perhaps eliminated in this case — because of their actions, the award to the children cannot, and it is the children who are entitled to punitive damages. It could turn out to be a very expensive party.

But hey, it’s not like people sue at the drop of a hat in this country, right? And, really, what’s the worst thing that can happen from Chickenpox? Other than it could kill you (about 100 deaths a year on average), complications can include herpes zoster (shingles) later in life, secondary bacterial infections in the lesions (usually superficial, but can lead to bacteremia), it can cause a number of neurological disorders including acute cerebellar ataxia, and resperitory  (varicella pneumonia) and liver complications. These tend to occur more often in adults who catch the disease and people (kids and adults) who are immunocompromised, but it can happen to anyone.

I want to emphasize the possibility of your kid developing shingles as an adult, because a lot of folks who are deliberately infecting their kids seem to think they’re giving them life-long immunity. You aren’t. Your body can’t eliminate the chickenpox virus, instead it becomes dormant and could return as herpes zoster — shingles — later in life:

Varicella zoster virus can become latent in the nerve cell bodies and less frequently in non-neuronal satellite cells of dorsal root, cranial nerve or autonomic ganglion, without causing any symptoms. Years or decades after a chickenpox infection, the virus may break out of nerve cell bodies and travel down nerve axons to cause viral infection of the skin in the region of the nerve. The virus may spread from one or more ganglia along nerves of an affected segment and infect the corresponding dermatome (an area of skin supplied by one spinal nerve) causing a painful rash. Although the rash usually heals within two to four weeks, some sufferers experience residual nerve pain for months or years, a condition called postherpetic neuralgia. Exactly how the virus remains latent in the body, and subsequently re-activates is not understood.

Throughout the world the incidence rate of herpes zoster every year ranges from 1.2 to 3.4 cases per 1,000 healthy individuals, increasing to 3.9–11.8 per year per 1,000 individuals among those older than 65 years. Antiviral drug treatment can reduce the severity and duration of herpes zoster if a seven- to ten-day course of these drugs is started within 72 hours of the appearance of the characteristic rash.

The chicken pox vaccine is 90% effective in preventing the disease and nearly 100% effective in insuring that the 10% who do catch it don’t suffer complications from it. Why would you choose to intentionally infect your kids with a disease that could potentially be so dangerous when there is a vaccine that will most likely keep them from ever catching it in the first place? The only reason I can think of is stupidity.

As for mailing infected items back and forth, that’s criminally idiotic:

CBS 5 producers found others asking for more dangerous pathogens. Two people on the Facebook page were looking for measles, mumps, and rubella.

I guess stupidity is also contagious.