A federal prosecutors is warning parents that trading chickenpox-laced lollipops through the mail is illegal, and, in fact, a federal crime.
The warning comes after several reports have surfaced about parents who were afraid to give their children vaccinations for the disease. As an alternative to a chickenpox vaccination, parents are exposing their children to chicken pox-laced popsicles in a modern day version of a chickenpox party.
Parents were arranging to have others send them lollipops that had been licked by a child who had contracted the illness. The arrangements were being made through the popular social network Facebook. According to a report from the LA Times, sending a chickenpox-laced lollipop through the mail probably wouldn't work because the varicella virus, better known as chicken pox, needs cells to live in. There aren't many cells in saliva and, therefore, it would be unlikely for the illness to live on a saliva-drenched lollipop.
While it's unlikely the chickenpox virus would be able to survive on a lollipop sent in the mail, not everyone is dismissing the potential dangers.
Chickenpox is a herpes virus, according to Web MD. And like other herpes viruses, infection is lifelong. True, once you're infected you'll never again get chickenpox. But if and when the virus re-emerges, it causes the extremely painful disease known as shingles.
Vaccinated children have a lower risk of getting shingles than unvaccinated kids or kids who natural contract chicken pox, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID).
In the 1970s, a similar fad had swept across the nation known as a chickenpox party. At such events, children would gather to hug and share items with an infected child. The idea was to expose children to the virus in order to gain natural immunity. The medical community spoke out against using such measure because of the risks that such methods had. This strange fad is being treated in the same light.
If you got the lollipop and gave to ou daughter or son and they became semi-comatose and had to be admitted to intensive care, you would never forgive yourself, said president of NFID William Shaffner. Chickenpox encephalitis is not common, but it is a risk. And chickenpox pneumonia: You would not want anyone to have that.
Both legal authorities and the medical community are in agreement about the matter: If your child needs to build immunity to the chickenpox virus, expose them through a vaccination. It is not only legal (as opposed to mailing lollipops laced with the illness), but it also helps them build stronger immunity.