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Monday, November 07, 2011

WTF?! Pox by Mail

I have restrained from overtly using profanity on this site (unlike my personal site), but upon hearing about this, I was flabbergasted!  And I am not the only one.  Again, I am going to turn to Todd W because he said it most in alignment with how I would have said it if I had not been having surgery for removing my palm from  my face...

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.

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