Swine Flu Parties Are a Bad Idea, Say Experts

Filed under: In The News, Expert Advice: Health

It's too soon to bring out the lollipops. Experts say swine flu parties aren't smart. Image: Pink Sherbet Photography on Flickr

Here's one from the "No Kidding" file: Don't intentionally let your family get infected with the swine flu. Seems like common sense, right? But while most of the country spent the last few weeks stocking up on hand sanitizer and face masks, a few brave souls were contemplating the benefits of a swine flu party.

The idea isn't a new one. Even back in the 1950s, mothers used to bring their kids to chickenpox parties, letting their kids -- for once -- share space and spoons with an infected friend. Knowing that chickenpox is less severe for children than adults, moms wanted to get the infection over with while kids were still young. Chickenpox parties are still around today -- though they're controversial -- among parents who are wary of the chickenpox vaccine.

The same theory is circulating about the swine flu: Some people think that if they get the infection now, while it causes an apparently mild case of influenza, then they'll have immunity against a new, more serious strain if it returns in the fall. But here's the thing: H1N1 is not chickenpox. Health experts want people to understand that not only can the current version of swine flu cause serious illness, but that immunity theory might not hold water if the virus changes.

"I think it's totally nuts," flu specialist Dr. Anne Moscona recently told the New York Times. "I can't believe people are really thinking of doing it. I understand the thinking, but I just fear we don't know enough about how this virus would react in every individual."

Richard Bessar, acting head of the CDC, agrees, calling a swine flu party "a big mistake." Bessar wants people to understand that though experts are optimistic, they're also dealing with something brand new. "This is a new, emerging infection, and we're learning more about it each day," Besser said in a statement. "But how an individual person will be impacted by the infection is not something that we know."

Here's one more reason not to go out and catch the swine flu on purpose: You -- or your child -- could easily contaminate the rest of us. Unless a sick person quarantines themselves for up to two weeks, they risk passing on the bug to someone else, someone who didn't get a choice in the matter.

What can you do to protect yourself from the swine flu? The CDC is a reputable source of information for parents and caregivers.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.