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You are invited to … a swine flu party!

Swine Flu party?We’ve all heard of chicken pox parties (what mom hasn’t?). I am not sure how many of us have actually had our kids attend. I, for one, decided to give that one a pass. Now, there’s a new kind of virus exchange program being organized – how about a swine flu party?

The logic of having a swine flu party is similar to that of a chicken pox party. Catch it now (mildly) or catch it later (seriously). People believe that having the mild strain of swine flu now (in its current state) MAY protect us from its more virulent form that is predicted to strike come the flu season in autumn.

According to flu expert Dr. Anne Moscona (source: The New York Times), the idea of swine parties is “nuts” and likens it to “vigilante vaccination” e.g. taking immunity into your own hands. The key word is “may” – there are no guarantees.

How people came to the idea is based on the following historical events:

  • In the Middle Ages, people deliberately tried to catch the small pox (the plague).
  • The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic was supposedly also preceded by a mild spring outbreak (similar to what’s been observed with the current swine flu) before it became deadly the following winter. And they were anecdotes which said that those who had the mild version survived the deadly version.

A major concern among health authorities is the possibility of the mild but highly infectious H1N1 (swine flu) virus combining with the pathogenic but not easily transmitted H5N1 (avian flu) virus to produce a superbug that’s deadly and infectious – and resistant to Tamiflu. Apparently many in the general population are also aware of this and are taking things in their own hands.

Health authorities are against the idea of swine flu parties mainly because there are a lot of things we still do not know about the virus and the disease, how unpredictable it can be, how it is like “jumping into the unknown.” Besides, not all cases of swine flu are mild. Although most of those who died have underlying medical conditions, serious complications have also been observed in other healthy, young people who got infected with swine flu.

An alternative to this self-infection strategy is to go for passive infection. Don’t actively avoid the virus (like locking yourself in your house) but do not invite it to come through your door, either.

So what do you think? Would you be interested in going to a swine flu party? Would you take your children with you?


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