Some parents are idiots
Here’s a downright insane story, via Gizmodo the Gadget blog: apparently there are people who are using Facebook to find other people who’s kids have chickenpox, and then setting up playdates. The Gizmodo posting has the link to the FB wall in question, as well as a news report from CBS5 in Phoenix, detailing how parents use social media avenues to purposefully infect their children with communicable diseases. The TV story even details how some parents have even admitted to sending contaminated candies through the US Mail to parents, so that parents would be able to infect their kids at home.
Chickenpox has traditionally been seen as a relatively innocuous childhood disease, with moderate signs and symptoms. Prior to 1995, there were approximately 4 million cases of chickenpox annually in the United States. Most people may not be aware that annually there have been an average of 10,000 hospitalizations with 150 deaths, representing about 3 to 4 percent of cases leading to complications. The complications vary from bacterial infections of the skin, pneumonia, and encephalitis. Many complications occurred in patients in the teenage years and older. The Centers for Disease Control report that deaths in young patients (4 and under) has diminished more than 90% since the introduction of the single dose chickenpox vaccine.
Now, I will fully admit that when I was young that parents actively set out to enable kids to get infected with chickenpox when a neighbor family was going through the disease. Having the disease as a toddler carried far fewer complications than with older children, so it was easy to rationalize that it would preferable to get the disease over with when an opportunity arose to do so. However, in 2011 there is absolutely no reason for anyone to have the disease; a safe and effective vaccine has now been available for about almost a generation. In the decade from 1995 to 2005, 48 million doses of varicella vaccine had been administered in the United States, with just over 1000 serious adverse reactions, for a safety rate exceeding 99.99 percent. It is essential to note that causality between the vaccine administration and the adverse reaction had not been laboratory confirmed, so it is likely that the actual safety rate for the vaccine is better.
I understand that there are valid reasons for not administering a vaccine to some people. Medical reasons, due to allergic or other anticipated adverse reactions are real, and absolutely those people should not receive the vaccine. Religious reasons are also state-approved exemptions for mandated vaccines in Pennsylvania and other states. Consequently, there always be a population who will be immunologically naive to chickenpox and other preventable infectious agents. Purposefully extending to an outbreak by going out and infecting your child then puts all of those people at risk, and in my mind is criminally negligent.
Here is a link to the CBS5 story in Phoenix, AZ which first broke this story.