The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Doctors nix idea of 'flu parties' to get immunity in case virus becomes deadlier

  • Print

TORONTO - As a reason for a party, this one is getting a big thumbs down from public health officials.

Rumours have emerged in Britain and elsewhere about people mixing with friends who have the new H1N1 virus and parents throwing "swine flu parties" so their children will get infected.

Their apparent reason is a belief that it's better to get the virus now while it causes mostly mild illness than in the fall when a possibly mutated and more deadly version could appear, says the British Medical Association, warning against such disease-swapping socials.

"I have heard of reports of people throwing swine flu parties and I don't think it is a good idea. I would not want it myself," said Dr. Colin Hamilton, chair of the public health committee for the BMA in Northern Ireland.

"The virus has only been known for two months and is still an unknown quantity," Hamilton said in a statement. "Our advice remains that people should avoid contracting it as much as possible until vaccines are produced."

The idea of swine flu get-togethers is likely modelled after "chicken pox parties" of the past, in which parents deliberately exposed their children to playmates infected with the virus in a bid to control when they got the disease. (A chicken pox vaccine is now available.)

While there is no firm evidence that flu-spreading functions are actually taking place, anecdotal reports suggest some people are at least talking about them.

Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease specialist at the University Health Network in Toronto, said he has heard about Canadians tossing around the idea.

"I have no proof that they're actually occurring," he said Thursday. "Just people sort of making off-the-cuff comments about, 'Yeah, we should get our kids together and get them infected' and whatever. I don't know of anyone who's actually done it."

Even though he understands parents' desire to get a bout of flu out of the way so they don't have to worry about it later, Gardam opposes the idea.

"This disease is not always benign. Just like the concept of chicken pox parties. I never agreed with that, either, because that disease is not always benign."

"How are you going to feel if you knowingly expose your child to this and they're the one in 100 or one in 500 that gets really sick from this or in fact even dies?"

In a recent New York Times interview, flu specialist Dr. Anne Moscona of Cornell University called the notion "totally nuts ... It's vigilante vaccination - you know, taking immunity into your own hands."

Canada's chief medical officer of health agreed that holding gatherings to transmit this pandemic strain of influenza would be a dangerous practice.

"The problem is that while it may be true that for the majority it's a mild disease, you cannot predict which child will get seriously ill and die," Dr. David Butler-Jones said Thursday. "And who wants to have that party and have that as a consequence?"

"So to the extent that you can avoid infection, that is the first priority. And then once we have a vaccine in place in the fall, that is the best prevention."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Bartley Kives breaks down latest news in CentreVenture and Carlton Street hotel deal

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A goose heads for shade in the sunshine Friday afternoon at Woodsworth Park in Winnipeg - Day 26– June 22, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 060711 Chris Pedersen breeds Monarch butterflies in his back yard in East Selkirk watching as it transforms from the Larva or caterpillar through the Chrysalis stage to an adult Monarch. Here an adult Monarch within an hour of it emerging from the Chrysalis which can be seen underneath it.

View More Gallery Photos


Do agree with the EPC's decision to release construction company Stuart Olson from its hotel-building obligation?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google