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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 20 October, 1999, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
Disease parties attacked
Parents are trying to get their children infected
Parents who believe it is healthier for their children to be deliberately exposed to the diseases at "contagious parties" have been criticised.

Advocates of the parties - which were fashionable before the era of mass vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella - say that the illnesses pose no threat in healthy babies.

They say it is better that they go ahead and contract them early rather than suffer possibly worse consequences later in life.

The popularity of the parties is partly due to some parents still being unwilling to allow their children to have the triple vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), believing it can cause harm.

'A lottery'

But although GP Rosemary Leonard concedes that there are benefits to gaining immunity to an illness like rubella early in life, she maintains that exposing toddlers to the measles virus is a "lottery" which could seriously harm the child.

Magda Taylor says it is a safe option
Magda Taylor, of the Informed Parent Group, told the BBC there was a "network" of parents taking part in parties.

She said: "Years ago it wasn't an organised thing, you just got measles, mumps or rubella. People wanted to get it - it was just a way of ticking it off the list."

"The actual diseases themselves have been grossly exaggerated, and a new generation of parents are terrified.

'Healthy children not at risk'

"There is only a risk if the child has a compromised immune system."

Dr Leonard disputes this, saying that even healthy children can be badly affected by the measles virus.

She said: "It's a lottery. The argument for doing it with measles is awful. Measles is a very dangerous illness."

She did concede that there were arguments for trying to make sure children contracted rubella, or German measles, as the virus causes the most damage if caught during pregnancy.

But even though the adult version of chicken pox was highly unpleasant, she said, enduring the illness as a child was also "very nasty".

She urged parents to visit their GP and discuss what option was best for the child.

The government has moved to try to quell the suspicion of the MMR jab felt by many parents.

The latest studies have found no evidence of a link between the vaccine and autism or bowel disease.

However, another study suggested that contracting measles and mumps naturally within close succession could cause harm.

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  ON THIS STORY
  BBC Breakfast News discussion on disease parties
BBC Breakfast News discusses contagious parties
See also:

19 Mar 99 | Health
11 Jun 99 | Health
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