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May 7th, 2009
11:59 PM ET

Parents, Kids & Swine Flu Parties?

David Puente
AC360° Producer

You can probably picture the scene. Well, sort of...

Parents gather in a suburban living room, eating cookies, having coffee and discussing how quickly their children outgrow their new clothes.

Meanwhile, in the play room, the kids lay on mats and cushions, tired from an intense hide-and-seek and tag session. But then, the parents encourage the children to share ice cream spoons, whistles, soda cups even bubble gum.

Does that sound strange? Maybe. But this is exactly what happened at chicken pox parties that some of us grew up with. And the point is to have the boy with the red dots on his face infect all of the small children in the room.

Usually parents who want their healthy children to get chickenpox believe it will help them build immunity against more virulent strains. Others oppose vaccination.

Now there's a buzz on the Internet about “swine flu parties,” and it has medical experts across the country up in arms as the H1N1 virus continues to spread across the U.S. In fact the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), says it “expects that more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths from this outbreak will occur over the coming days and weeks”.

The latest numbers in the US according to the CDC: There are 43 states reporting cases, in total there are 1,639 cases and two deaths.

The “swine flu party” chatter on flu web sites and public health blogs like Effectmeasure and flutrackers.com has even gotten the attention of a top US health official.

Having a “swine flu party” is "a big mistake," said Richard Besser, the acting head of the CDC. "This is a new, emerging infection, and we're learning more about it each day," he said. "How an individual person will be impacted by the infection is not something that we know."

"It's a big mistake putting individuals and children at risk, and the CDC does not recommend that people follow that course," he said.

US health officials fear that the unpredictable and potentially deadly A(H1N1) flu virus could mutate and appear as a more virulent, drug-resistant strain later in the year.

In Fact the virus is spreading throughout the US, Central and South America. In Guatemala there are three cases, one in Panama, two in Costa Rica and two in El Salvador. As winter and the flu season approach in South America, the continent is on high alert for swine flu or A(H1N1).

In Colombia, the South American country closest to Mexico, authorities scrambled to stockpile antiviral medication and told schools to send home children who show up sick. So far, one case has been confirmed in the country of over 45 million, and dozens are under observation. Colombia has become the first South American country to confirm a case of swine flu but not the only one, just hours ago four were confirmed in Brazil and one in Argentina.

Meanwhile signs that things may be improving in Mexico, this weekend, Mexican soccer federation will allow fans to attend professional soccer games again.

What You Can Do to Stay Healthy

  • Stay informed. This website will be updated regularly as information becomes available.
  • Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
  • Take everyday actions to stay healthy.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
  • Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.
  • Find healthy ways to deal with stress and anxiety.
  • Call 1-800-CDC-INFO for more information.

Filed under: 360° Radar • David Puente • H1N1
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Charlotte D

    These parents are idiots.

    May 8, 2009 at 10:18 am |
  2. Victoria Mathis

    The Swine Flu is nothing new. The last time America had Swine Flu, H1N1 virus was the Pandemic of 1918
    Back then, the start of the Flu was in the spring, N1H1 was mild.
    Just like right now.
    Swine flu lay slient for the summer .
    In September around the 22th of 1918 the flu came back bigger and much stronger than before.
    It killed millions around the world between September 22 and December 6 of 1918.

    May 8, 2009 at 2:39 am |
  3. dave Lucia

    Flu parties? No one is talking about flu parties. The purpose of pox parties was to infect and rid your kids of chicken pox. NO ONE would concider a flu party. How stupid this whole piece even is.

    May 8, 2009 at 12:24 am |
  4. Keith

    In an age of MRSA and Supergugs caused by overuse of antibiotics and antibacterial liuids/wipes/sprays we are losing our natural defenses to pathogens. Even dining out and being exposed to Lysteria, E. Coli, Salmonella, etc. are met with death instead of mere discomfort. I think that there may be some logic in the thinking of these parents. It was our progenators who survived the influenza of 1918 which gave us our resistance to that strain...those who were exposed to it and didn't survive, weren't able to pass on the resistance to the virus.

    I think both sides were right in this case. It was a good test of our ability to use caution and react to public health notices and tthe attempts to stymie the spread of the virus. On the other hand, it is testing our developing immunity to these viruses of which the parents may have something...even at the risk of fatal exposure. This isn't a hemmoragic fever such as Ebola witha very short life/contagin vector. What we are seeing is a very different virus far outside of Mexico...one with relatively mild symptoms in those of good health outside of infants and the elderly.

    Those exposed t6o the virus may be a source of investigation in the future and their descendants as well.

    The experts were wrong about the vector of this virus. They may wrong as well about their stance on the parties.

    BTW. I am not a healthcare professional nor a public health expert. I'm simply voicing my opinion.

    May 8, 2009 at 12:17 am |
  5. jason

    if stupidity is hereditary, it's probably not a problem. the kids were going to die by their parents' or their own ignorance soon enough...

    May 8, 2009 at 12:07 am |
  6. subbu

    Hi,

    How to know if it is a simple/common flu or a swine flu ? They both seem to have same symptoms. I could not find proper info this anywhere. Can you please help clarify this?

    thanks a million,

    May 7, 2009 at 11:56 pm |
  7. GK

    You source Besser, who makes a claim that swine flu parties are a bad idea without backing it up with any real info, and you don't present the opposite opinion on why a swine flu party could be useful. I suggest you ask: Can we develop antibodies to swine flu like you do to chicken pox after you have it? Sure, viruses mutate; that doesn't mean you can't develop immunity to common strains. Overall, this piece is feeling like fear mongering.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:48 pm |
  8. TIM HAWKINS

    They all tell us how not to get swine flu but no one tells us what to do if we get it.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:44 pm |
  9. Rodney

    This is EXACTLY why I believe you should have to pass an aptitude test before you are allowed to have children. People this dumb should not be allowed to reproduce.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:40 pm |
  10. Dan Alban

    It's completely irresponsible for CNN to be reporting "swine flu parties" as factual without an ounce of substantiation. This smells really bad.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:39 pm |
  11. Kaitlyn

    Many people don't realize that chicken pox, in combination with strep throat, can be deadly. Every few years, a virulent strain of strep may pass through a communitiy, and if you get chicken pox at the same time, it is not pretty. I really loathe parents who do not vaccinate their children. Their families benefit from herd immunity, but then they also expose others to unnecessary risk. My daughter caught whooping cough last year as her immunity was wearing down, and she was due for a booster. One parent in her school, where there was a breakout, did not have her children vaccinated. Her children were the first cases of whooping cough. So my daughter and others also suffered for months with pertussis. (Even after antibiotic treatment, you are still coughing).

    May 7, 2009 at 11:39 pm |
  12. Madeline

    Any idiot taking their kid to one of these flu parties needs to be reported to CPS.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:38 pm |
  13. BillC

    Swine flu parties will help our gene pool weed out individuals who are dumb enough to go this route.

    Sorry. Society can't save all the dummies all the time. Evolution has built-in mechanisms to filter out tendencies like swine flu parties.

    Bill C

    May 7, 2009 at 11:37 pm |
  14. Relevare

    Every year, 36,000 people in the United States DIE from the regular-old flu. Why are we so worried about 1200 people in the WHOLE WORLD who have swine flu?

    May 7, 2009 at 11:27 pm |
  15. Jessica

    Apparently, some people are too stupid to realize how dangerous this can be – I wonder if they will come to their senses when one of their children gets sick enough to be hospitalized or if it will take one of them losing their child for them to figure it out.
    Apparently, some people are too stupid to be parents – there really should be a logic test before reproduction occurs.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:24 pm |
  16. Isabel

    Hi, David!

    Great post!

    Complicated task for parents, that of controlling the children and their habits! But necessary!

    More than 2,000 cases worldwide.
    Today was confirmed 4 cases of swine flu in Brazil. In the USA it seems that the situation is controlled. At least, these are the news that comes here. Or not?

    Another detail: it seems that the media is diminishing the attention the subject. Last week we were massacred by news about H1N1. This week, when there is, is only one news per day!
    The press must not lower our guard because the people will do the same.

    Great post! Thanks!

    May 7, 2009 at 11:23 pm |
  17. Eric Folks

    I've read and heard that many who were initially infected with the Spanish Flu were later immune to the more virulent strain that surfaced the following year and killed millions. Since this initial strain of H1N1 is relatively mild in most cases, is it really that outlandish to consider the potential benefits of early exposure?

    May 7, 2009 at 11:17 pm |
  18. t. farr

    News and info about all of this has been supressed in the last week.........people need to get ready for a real pandemic in the fall.......
    this flue is acting EXACTLY like the 1918 killer flu......almost in every way........study it and make your own mind up......click '1918 flu' on google search and learn.....
    The gov is going overboard to tamp down panic......learn, prepare and dont believe everything you hear.....it could be your life.....

    T.F.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:16 pm |
  19. Hayate Yagami

    One simple question...

    Are these people INSANE!?

    May 7, 2009 at 11:15 pm |
  20. Bennett, Syracuse NY

    As a pediatric infectious disease fellow who helped take care of two (previously) perfectly healthly kids (not babies, older kids – one was a teenager) who nearly died from flu this year...well, you can guess what I'm about to say.

    Both were on ventilators. One suffered permanent lung damage that she may never recover from. Without excellent medical care both would have died. Neither got their flu shot this year. As a parent of a kid is is also currently healthy, but a darn sight younger than these two, it scared the crap out of me. Most parents don't get exposed to that kind of illustration of how bad flu can get.

    While its true that the US cases of swine-origin H1N1 2009 flu have been apparently not much worse than the seasonal flu...well, the seasonal flu still kills 35-40,000 people annually in the US.

    Vaccines were created for a reason – they're a damn sight safer than any kind of party to get infected 'naturally'. 'Natural' infections can kill, maim, or cause serious disease. Vaccines do not. Purposefully exposing yourself or your kids to a preventable and avoidable disease just seems plain crazy to me.

    On the other hand, maybe I should be encouraging people to do this – it'll certainly keep me in business for years to come. That and all the drug-resistant bugs from overuse of antibiotics and antivirals... Over 98% of the 2008 H1N1 was tamiflu-resistant this winter. Made for more than a few phone calls to me for advice.

    My concern is that our resources (especially things like tamiflu) are going to get diverted away from the real danger – a flu strain with real potential for lethality like H5N1, which kills about half of the people it infects. If H5N1, which is currently lethal but hard to catch, were to combine with H1N1 2009, which is less lethal but very easy to catch, we're all screwed.

    And no manner of flu parties will help prepare for that.

    Bennett

    May 7, 2009 at 11:08 pm |
  21. Adam

    This isn't chicken pox, This is a new , un-researched, virus with deadly consequences if people keep ignoring the experts and making light of the situation. Wake up People, the plague wiped out 1/3 of the population before there were cars..... today we have planes, trains, and automobiles.... this thing has, and will, spread like flies on poop. Though it hasn't proven to be as lethal so far, it could easily become so. Not something I want to intentionally give to my child.... dumb arrrses.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:06 pm |
  22. Lori

    Regarding the "what can we do" to stay healthy. Only really keeps stating what people who have it should do to keep it from spreading. What can we do to keep our immune systems strong in hopes to prevent it from attacking us severely? Vitamin E, C, what could we boost up with?

    May 7, 2009 at 11:05 pm |
  23. American

    Swine flu parties?

    What happened to common sense?

    For the sake of entertainment, please interview someone who believes this is a smart idea Anderson.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:02 pm |
  24. cam

    Only a complete IDIOT would allow their child into a situation like that

    May 7, 2009 at 11:02 pm |
  25. Theo

    That's baffling why people would do this kind of thing... Haven't they realized yet that it's not the Chicken Pox or the normal Flu?

    May 7, 2009 at 11:00 pm |
  26. Barb

    Charles Darwin wrote a book about these people....

    May 7, 2009 at 10:51 pm |
  27. A.J.

    Anything living can mutate, viruses being only the quickest at it. The human immune system was set up through years of trial and error, and still remains the first and best defense against any contagion. For the most part, medical science is still almost helpless against a virus, a problem that is made even worse by the over use of drugs (over use increasing the adaption of the virus). Facts are lacking, it's true, but this report still seems very one sided, and there are real risks to vaccines in children.

    May 7, 2009 at 10:48 pm |
  28. Robb

    No one is having swine flu parties, no one. Please cite one example because the story had no sources.

    May 7, 2009 at 10:44 pm |
  29. David

    Morons.

    May 7, 2009 at 10:43 pm |