‘Swine Flu Parties’ Could Compromise Public Health

by Aruna on Oct 12 2009 9:42 AM

An expert has raised concerns over the so-called ‘swine-flu parties,’ where people intentionally mix with friends or others infected with H1N1 influenza.

The expert says that the idea is too risky and acting on it could compromise public health.

Dr. Walter White, who runs the University of Alabama at Birmingham's (UAB) Student Health Service has said that although the people who indulge in such get-togethers think getting the flu early will protect them in the long run, all they are really doing is endangering themselves and others "It is a very, very bad idea. It goes against everything medicine and public health are trying to do to encourage social distancing for the infected, and it could hamper efforts to control the disease," said White.

The idea of swine flu parties is an extension of chicken pox and measles parties that were once viewed as a way to expose children to those infections and give them some biological resistance to subsequent strains of the disease.

However, says White, doctors and health officials are condemning the idea.

While H1N1's worldwide spread causes mostly mild sickness, the virus still carries the risk of severe illness and death.

In fact, little is known about the science behind the 2009 strain, so safety and prevention are critical.

"I certainly understand the possible reasoning behind it, but people need to know flu parties are really a dangerous idea. This is still a potentially harmful virus, and we're trying to contain the illness as much as possible," said White.

"We really don't know, in advance, who is going to be the unfortunate person who has a bad or fatal outcome from this flu infection," he added.

Some data show that people infected with H1N1 flu can transmit the live virus to others for a longer period of time than previously thought.

It is not clear, however, if new findings will lead to changes in social-distancing recommendations.

"Another reason why I say flu parties are a bad idea? We have a vaccine on the horizon, and this vaccine is very effective at keeping people from getting H1N1. I hope people are smart enough to know that risky behavior is bad advice when it comes to influenza. Preventing infection is the smartest way to go," said White.