Think lollipops submerged in the saliva of a child infected with varicella-zoster virus, more commonly known as chicken pox. This is just one of the natural immunity boosters to which some parents are exposing their children.
Parents generally go to any length to keep their children healthy. But some fearful of vaccines have opted to help their children get sick instead.
Tainted lollipops, Q-tips, clothing, rags and other vehicles carrying the spit or body fluids of children infected with contagious viruses have popped up all over the Internet, including popular websites such as Facebook and eBay.
Apparently, you can have some chicken pox-laden pops or other infected goods shipped to your door after a simple online transaction. It's just like buying a sweater. "I have PayPal and plenty of spit and suckers," one of the Facebook messages advertised.
In addition to these so-called natural immunity boosters, parents have conspired to host and plan "pox parties" for their children. Websites such as Chickenpoxparties.com, Mothering.com and Craigslist have served to connect parents with others who may have some sick kids.
Sick parties, as they are sometimes called, gained popularity in the 1980s before the chicken pox vaccine came out in 1995. Anywhere between 100 and 150 children died every year from the chicken pox virus before the vaccine became available, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In 1998, a British gastroenterologist named Andrew Wakefield, M.D., published a paper in a medical journal, The Lancet, suggesting that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine might cause symptoms associated with autism. The assertion has since been officially retracted, but the fear instilled in some still remains strong. The anti-vaccine movement has also been pushed by celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy.
Most health care providers believe the chicken pox virus would not survive after the infected saliva dried and tossed in the mail. However, the pops could carry different, harmful bacteria or a more serious virus such as hepatitis.
"Imagine how you would feel if you took your kid to one and they came down with encephalitis or group A strep," Dr. Anne Gershon, professor of pediatrics at Columbia University and president of the Infectious Disease Society of America, told the New York Post.
One thing is clear: Mailing infectious material is a federal crime. Though no one has been prosecuted for mailing chicken pox pops to date, officials have publicly warned that those thinking about shipping such goods can spend up to 20 years in jail if caught.
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