Chicken Pox Debate Focuses on 'Pox Parties'

Vaccine Critics Can Run Afoul of Law

POSTED: 7:26 AM PDT May 7, 2012    UPDATED: 9:03 AM PDT May 7, 2012 
BEND, Ore. -

Common signs of the Chicken Pox are a red bumpy rash, fever and cold like symptoms, but not many parents are witnessing their children with these symptoms anymore.

That's because many parents are vaccinating their children starting at the age of 12 months. Since the vaccines release over 15 years ago, children have been required to have the vaccine before starting school.

Dr. Neil Ernst of St. Charles Family Care Clinic in Redmond said, ?The immunizations that we give including chicken pox are highly affective, and so the diseases that used to be very fairly common now are becoming less and less common."

Doctors say with a vaccine that has been proven effective, with little to no complications, catching the disease naturally could be dangerous.

"Unvaccinated children who get chicken pox, there?s a complication of about 1 in every 500 kids,? says Dr. Dale Svendsen of Central Oregon Pediatric Associates (COPA). ?In the United States, there?s about 11,000 people a year hospitalized because of chicken pox."

Chicken pox is a highly contagious viral disease that can be passed easily through air and common areas.

?It's so contagious you could pass someone in the hallway, in the waiting room, at preschool and catch it," said Dr. Svendsen.

Before the release of the vaccine in 1995, over 4 million cases of chicken pox were reported every year. Since then, the number of cases has deceased by 90 percent.

Many of the other 10 percent are against vaccinating their children, and want them to catch the disease the old-fashioned way

?I feel like there's so many vaccines now that we're overwhelming our little babies' systems," said Bend mother Marie Machado.

One way children are contracting the disease is by having "chicken pox parties."

These parties used to be a common way to get the neighborhood group of kids to catch the disease at the same time, but now that so many are being vaccinated, parents have gone to social media, looking for kids with chicken pox.

Some online posts that NewsChannel 21 found read:

"I am a mother of a 5 year old son living in the Portland area, and I am looking to expose him to the chicken pox."

"I have a 2 year old who woke up with chicken pox today. I live in Springfield, Missouri if anyone needs a playdate.?

"Pretty sure we had a successful party today. So be expecting them in Michigan soon."

Some parents, however, have taken find chicken pox online to the extreme, and even sent items such as used lollipops and washcloths to parents, in order to spread the disease when no one can be found nearby.

Not only can this be dangerous -- it is illegal, and a federal offense to send a disease by mail. According to the Facebook page ?Find A Pox Party In Your Area,? parents sent contaminated material to states across the country.

For parents who do not want to vaccinate their children, doctors want to remind them that the older you are, the more dangerous chicken pox can be, and the more long-term effects it can have.

Also, if you are an adult who has never had the chicken pox, check with your physician -- because you are never to old to get the vaccine.