A Facebook page that promoted the sale of chickenpox-infected items to parents around the country has apparently been shut down out of concern that it may be in violation of federal laws.
The site, called “Find a Pox Party in Your Area,” was discovered by a TV station in Phoenix. The station reported that the site contained postings from parents offering to send items, such as lollipops and Q-tips contaminated by their own chickenpox-infected kids, to other parents who might prefer “a natural” way of immunizing their children against the disease rather than having them vaccinated.
“Fresh batch of Pox in Nashville Tennessee. Shipping of suckers, spit, and Q-tips available tomorrow. $50 via PayPal,” read one post on the site, according to the CNN affiliate.
The site, say health experts and federal officials, was put up and visited by parents who want to avoid giving their children the recommended chickenpox, or varicella, vaccine out of concern that it could have side effects.
According to a recent study in the journal of Pediatrics, the vaccine that became available 16 years ago does cause some initial discomfort from soreness where the shot is given. In some cases it also produces fevers and can lead to pneumonia and seizures. But even though doctors insist that such incidents are rare, the study found that at least 6 percent of the nation’s parents still choose not to vaccinate their young children.
“What is obviously going on is we have some mothers who are trying to be imaginative and are vaccine skeptics,” Dr. Bill Schaffner of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine told CNN. He described the Facebook site as a simple variation of the old chickenpox party where healthy children were allowed to play with infected ones in order to catch the virus.
“Chickenpox parties are really bad ideas,” added Dr. Schaffer. “There is not a pediatrician in the country that would recommend this.”
Dr. Schaffer also expressed concern about other diseases and health problems being transmitted through the exchange of contaminated items. And he raised doubts about whether exposure to items – like licking a lollipop, for example – would actually cause someone to catch the chickenpox. “Typically somebody breathes out the virus and then somebody else breaths it in,” he said.
U. S. Attorney Jerry Martin, who represents the middle district of Tennessee, would not say whether he is conducting an investigation. But he told CNN that he is concerned about the possibility of several illegal actions.
“Sending a virus or disease through the U.S. mail is illegal,” he said. “Also, it is against federal law to adulterate or tamper with consumer products, such as candy. Finally, it is illegal to introduce into interstate commerce unauthorized biological materials.”