Colds and flu

26 October 2009

Swine flu parties?

While most people are doing all they can to avoid the swine flu, some groups of people are said to be actively seeking it out.


While most people are doing all they can to avoid the swine flu, some groups of people are said to be actively seeking it out.

These are parents who are reportedly arranging swine flu "parties" - similar to chicken pox or measles parties - so their healthy children can be exposed to the virus through kids who are already sick with the H1N1 flu.

Health experts theorise that the rationale may be to give a child the swine flu while it's still relatively mild, before it mutates into something more virulent. But, so far, all indications point to the H1N1 virus staying as mild to moderate as when it first appeared in the spring.

Disease better than vaccine
Or perhaps parents think that the disease is somehow better than unknown side effects associated with the H1N1 vaccine. But, there appear to be no untoward side effects associated with the shot other than redness, tenderness and swelling at the injection site, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

But health experts are universal in their condemnation of the practice of swine flu parties.

"Any time you willingly subject your children to an infectious disease, you run the risk of all sorts of complications," said Dr Tamara Kuittinen, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, US. "There's always a risk of giving them more than you bargained for. It may be dangerous."

Added Dr Robert Frenck, a professor of paediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital: "It's not anything I would advocate for swine flu or any flu. Most of the time the flu is a mild illness, but it can be severe. People die from H1N1 and from the regular flu."

Particularly risky
Swine flu parties could prove particularly risky because the H1N1 flu, unlike seasonal flu, tends to target children and young adults. According to data collected by the CDC, nearly 24% of deaths were among people under age 25, about 65% of deaths were among those 25 to 64, and only 11.6% of the deaths were among people aged 65 and older.

Over a six-week period, 27 states reported 4,958 people hospitalised with H1N1 swine flu, and more than half - 53% - were under the age of 25.

Despite questions in some quarters about the safety of the H1N1 vaccine now being rolled out, the shot is actually the best way to protect your child against the swine flu, said Dr Nathan Litman, director of paediatrics and chief of paediatric infectious diseases at The Children's Hospital, Montefiore Medical Center, in New York City.

"It should totally prevent them from acquiring influenza and, if they do get sick, they would have a milder illness," he said.

Vaccination will also prevent others from falling ill: Children who contract the swine flu at a party not only run the risk of getting sick themselves, they can also pass it on to others who might be at greater risk of complications, Litman added.

"When you have a good match between the vaccine and the virus circulating, you have 90% or more protection against the disease," Frenck said. - (Amanda Gardner/HealthDay News, October 2009)

Read more:
Swine flu world map
Swine flu timeline


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules