You might have heard by now that some families are deliberately exposing their kids to H1N1 in the hopes of building up an immunity to the virus while it is in a relatively mild form and few people are dying from it.
That’s not necessarily as crazy as it sounds. In the days before the chicken pox vaccine, chicken pox parties were a good way to ensure that your child got chicken pox before she or he outgrew the window where it’s a relatively minor illness. Chicken pox in adults is serious, and the only immunity to be had was through suffering it out as a kid.
Swine flu is another matter. A relatively new illness that could be mutating fast, swine flu is not something we all have to go through, and it is known to be dangerous. That hasn’t stopped some families from wanting to share the icky, sniffly, viral joy. Experts have been warning moms off doing this since last spring. It has become enough of a thing that the CDC has weighed in, with admirable understatement, to say they “do not recommend” swine flu parties. Here’s what they have to say:
CDC does not recommend “swine flu parties” as a way to protect against 2009 H1N1 flu in the future. While the disease seen in the current 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak has been mild for many people, it has been severe and even fatal for others. There is no way to predict with certainty what the outcome will be for an individual or, equally important, for others to whom the intentionally infected person may spread the virus.
While the “possibly fatal” aspect is enough to scare most parents off of this idea, there are plenty of other good reasons to avoid it. Need I mention that spending a week or more caring for a very sick child, and getting sick yourself, is not fun? You have better things to do.
There’s the whole risk of dying bit. Right now, your odds of dying from Swine Flu are about equal to your odds of dying from two months of normal highway driving, but that could change with a single mutation.
Speaking of mutation, the most important reason to stay away from Swine Flu parties is that the more people who get infected, the more opportunities it has to mutate into something really nasty.
While its spreading fast, a lot of us probably won’t catch it at all. There’s no need to go looking for the flu. Steering clear not only keeps you and your kids safe, it lessens the risks for everyone in your community because you’re not helping the infection spread and mutate.
If you want to protect your kids from infection, there is a safe, reliable vaccine available to do just that. Finding it might be a challenge. In the meantime, you can wash your hands and avoid your sick friends.