Friday, November 4, 2011

Pox by Post

Something came to light today that made me despair for the human race. I first read it at Mike the Mad Biologist's blog. It was also covered by Emily over at The Biology Files, where Emily took a look at just who the people were that were involved. Reuben wrote about it at The Poxes Blog and Tara discussed it at Aetiology.

What could have gotten the medical and skeptical blogosphere in such an uproar? This story.

You may have heard of pox parties. These little bits of idiocy involve parents bringing their children who have not had the chickenpox over to the house of another family whose child is currently sick with chickenpox. The intent is to purposefully infect their little darlings with a disease that can become quite serious, with hospitalization rates that could be as high as 2-3 per 1,000 cases among healthy children. The reason they do this is because they have an irrational distrust of vaccines and the mistaken belief that natural infection is actually better, because, y'know, actually getting the disease and risking all the very real complications is better than a shot that makes you immune without getting ill or suffering the much more common secondary nastiness from the wild virus.

Well, the recklessness of people like this has gone up a notch. You see, thanks to vaccines, the rate of infection with the varicella virus has declined dramatically, so that it is much more difficult today to find a child with the chickenpox. This makes pox parties a bit harder to find. These paragons of wisdom (that's sarcasm, in case you missed it) have decided to mail the virus to each other. That's right. They're sending lollipops, spit, toys and other contaminated crap to each other. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for starters, they're breaking the law. Varicella is classified in biosafety risk group 2, meaning the those working with it must be trained in how to handle it and follow certain protocols to prevent inadvertently letting it out into the environment. In order to ship material like this, the sender must be trained in proper packaging and handling of the material, and trained carriers with a permit can transport the package. Clearly, though, the law does not matter to these twits, since in response to someone pointing out that it was a Federal offense, one woman answered:
"Tuck it inside a zip lock baggy and then put the baggy in the envelope :) Don't put anything identifying it as pox."
But it isn't just the law about which they are clueless. They have absolutely no thought to the risk involved. These items may be carrying more than just the varicella virus. Hepatitis A and B viruses, meningococcal bacteria and other baddies may also be lurking on that tempting lolli they just received. They are putting their children at significant risk of very serious injury or, yes, even death, all because they think they know better than people who have spent their lives studying biology, immunology and infectious diseases.

But it isn't just their kids that they are putting at risk. They are also jeopardizing the mail carrier who picks up the package, the postal workers sorting things to the right trucks, the drivers that transport the packages, the mail carriers at the receiving end--in short, everyone who handles it along the way. Should any of their ziplock baggies fail, so much for containing the contagion. And what about the external packaging? I'm guessing these people are not practicing the best of sterile handling techniques. They have no clue whether the people who handle their mail may be immune compromised. If they have HIV, are on immunosuppressants due to receiving a transplant or have suppressed immune systems due to age or cancer treatment, they are at very high risk of serious complications from being infected. Even worse, these nitwits aren't content to leave it at just chickenpox; there are some who are even looking to get measles, mumps or rubella samples by mail.

The sheer arrogant ignorance of these people enrages me, to the point that I'm going to do something that I try to avoid, at least on the blog. I try to keep my language clean, but these assholes have no clue what the hell they're doing and the kind of shitstorm they could potentially unleash. For anyone that thinks that this is a good idea, I have just one question for you:

[This bit redacted, now that I've had a little bit of time to cool down. Just imagine a cursing, slug-related insult here, with apologies to slugs.]

I seriously hope that the police and FBI are investigating this issue and will bring the full force of law to bear on these sad wastes of human intellect. And who do we have to thank for thinking like this? People like Jenny McCarthy, Barbara Loe Fisher and the NVIC, Generation Rescue and Age of Autism and all the other anti-vaccine activists out there who advocate for natural infection and preach fear of vaccines. Any harm that comes of this idiocy can be laid at your feet.


  1. Geez, don't hold back, Todd... How do you really feel about these idiots?

  2. @Ren

    That would take a whole 'nother post. They are intentionally hurting kids and risking the health of others. Though perhaps I let my emotions run away from me a bit. Should I have toned it down?

  3. Not at all, my friend. Carry on...

  4. Comment at Emily Willingham's The Biology Files article on the Facebook groups

    Or perhaps I am tired of reading CRAP about anti-vaxxing moms everywhere I go?

    Crap like, I suppose, you are a menace to public health, vaccine-refusing mother.

  5. I can't believe they would subject their children to misery on purpose. About a year ago I wrote about my experience on now extinct blog. Sigh.

  6. So, for the record. . . the world is a confusing place. Many of these parents "think" they are helping their children. Damn, I would say 99% of them are probably trying to HELP their children. These are not doctors or scientists or immunologists. They are scared people, scared that vaccine's are poisoning their children and doing what there elders have done. I understand the harm................BUT LETS TRY EDUCATING!!!!!!!!! NOT CONDEMNING!!!!!!!!

    And yes, the question is "how do you educate scared. . . not very smart people?" How do you convince them that billions of dollars are not the only reason their children are getting vaccinated? How do you convince them that vaccinations are the healthy option?

  7. I wsa absolutely floored to read that people were sending that shit via the mail.

    My son was 'lucky' (that's sarcasm) to contract the chickenpox the week before he'd been schedule to get the vaccine.

    100 pustules on his FACE, 200 down his back and trunk and his genital area was just one big weeping sore. We had to get meds to keep the inflammation under control.

    Who the hell willingly subjects their kids to that? That's the most asinine bit of idiotic bullshit I've ever heard.

  8. @Chad

    I can totally understand how confusing things can be, especially medicine, not to mention how the emotions involved in caring for a new child can affect judgment. That's why I do try to educate (if you read some of my other posts or my other site, The Truth About the Evils of Vaccination). I agree that education needs to be a major effort on the part of public health officials.

    But when, even through ignorance or fear, people do absolutely insane things like this, damn straight they should be condemned. Would you say the same thing if someone went out and just started randomly shooting a gun around outside? Sure, educate them about proper gun handling, but you sure as hell hold them accountable for their actions, too.

    This is not an issue where we need to make an either-or decision. We can educate and condemn at the same time. We can definitely say to them, "You're wrong and here's why. Now, off to jail with you."

    They are displaying a callous disregard for everyone around them, including their own children. And these are not "not very smart people", either. A lot of them are well-educated. Go read Emily's post. These aren't dumb people.

  9. @Todd W

    I am not trying to downplay the immense wrongs of these "mail a virus" folks. To me it is very obvious that while a pox party might be construed as "understandable" (as generations teach other generations) this mailing viruses cannot be interpreted any way other than idiocy.

    Would I say that a crazed gunmen is just scared and not very bright and trying to Help their children by basking in a tank of idiocy? Obviously not. While the potential actions of the gunmen and the Soccer Mailing Virus Mom might have the same effect in the long term; they are quite different situations.

    I am not defending the stupidity of these mail a virus folks. Rather, I am defending ignorance. (uhh, I better get a big sword and a mightier pen to take up that battle) :)

    Perhaps I am defending my own ignorance as well. I am wired to see the good in folks and help them if the situation arises. Perhaps I am ignorant to the fact that certain people cannot be helped. Surely, even with a CT hat on, I could/would NEVER EVER order saliva for my child. Perhaps they should be condemned. Put in jail...but follow this to the end, to the explanation these people are giving for their actions and I doubt you will find terrorist intentions. As I have no quotes I can only speculate, but com'on...these people are most likely trying to HELP their children stay healthy.

    If my mother thought that by feeding me anti-freeze that I would grow strong and never get sick, and she truly believed that (with all her ability to reason) I would forgive her and seek to educate her.

    I realize now Todd that by condemning such people is probably the best way to educate others. If it were not for such a furious anger at these folks perhaps the inherent danger could not be recognized by others (and we can both bet that there ARE many many others). And while reading the article and being a parent who is skeptical of everything I am told or read especially about my children I could not help but to feel immense sorrow for parents who don't understand what it is to be a good parent.

    You know though...

    Todd said:
    "And these are not "not very smart people", either. A lot of them are well-educated. Go read Emily's post. These aren't dumb people."

    I suppose our definitions are a bit mixed up here. Once somebody orders an infected item from a stranger with unknown origins to put in their own child's mouth for a good cause or not...they become entirely not very smart people instantly; despite their education IMO.

    While we agree on many fronts. . . I just feel that we can always be better people. Perhaps it is my own ignorance which has caused me not to immediately condemn these folks. Like you said as a parent with intense emotions it can be difficult and confusing especially when Life or death comes into play.

    I will read your other blogs, you seem to be onto good things.

  10. You could probably put a stop to this by starting a rumour that a pro-vaccine "crazy" had infilitrated the group and was sending out lollipops spiked with vaccines.

  11. @Neuroskeptic

    If only I had more freedom, this would have been done already.

    (Heck, we "forcefully" vaccinate everyone, according to some.)

  12. @Neuroskeptic and Ren

    I would not advocate doing that. One, it's kind of a jerk thing to do. Two, given the criminal nature of the group, it may cause problems with the investigation by authorities.

  13. Come on, Todd, you really think I'd do such a thing? Maybe last year, but not now. Hehehehe...


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