Avoid swine flu parties, parents urged

Parents were warned today not to take their children to "swine flu parties" in the hope they will catch the disease now and build up immunity.

Although no firm evidence has emerged of such events taking place, family website mumsnet.com has witnessed discussions over whether parents should take steps to ensure their children acquire immunity before the main flu season in the winter, when some people expect the virus to be more potent.

For many years, parents have deliberately exposed their children to playmates with chickenpox in order to allow them to have the once-only disease at a convenient time, but British Medical Association expert Dr Richard Jarvis today warned against taking the same approach with swine flu.

His warning came the day after news emerged of the first death of a child with swine flu in the UK.

A schoolgirl, believed to have been a pupil at the Mayfield specialist school in Birmingham, which caters for children with learning difficulties, died at the city's Children's Hospital within the past few days, health chiefs said.

She is the third person with swine flu to die in the UK since the start of the outbreak, but it is not yet known if the disease contributed to her death.

A spokesman for NHS West Midlands said the child had "other serious underlying health conditions" and tested positive for swine flu following her death.

The West Midlands has been declared a hotspot for the disease, with 2,104 confirmed cases so far, more than a third of the UK's total and more than two-fifths of all the cases in England.

Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that she had heard rumours of "swine flu parties" taking place.

"There is an awful lot of discussion from people who have come up with a fairly rational conclusion that it might be better to pick this up now, given that we all think it might mutate to a more virulent strain in the winter," she said.

"We have heard of people saying 'Can we come round to your house when you get it?' There's definitely a prevailing view that it might be better to get it now and some people are not despairing if there is a case in their school."

But Dr Jarvis, the chairman of the BMA's public health committee, told Today: "I think parents would want to take into account that the flu - although this particular strain is relatively mild for the most part - is something that will knock people off their feet for a few days and we are seeing appreciable morbidity, severe side-effects and sadly the occasional death.

"My advice to parents would be to take this into account before taking any child along to a flu party."

Dr Jarvis added: "We haven't picked up any good evidence to suggest that it is happening. In fact, we have picked up quite a lot of evidence that the opposite is happening - people are scared, justifiably, and children are being removed from school when there isn't any need to actually do that."

However, he insisted there was no need for parents to panic.

"It certainly isn't something we should be scared about," he said. "There is absolutely no cause for panic. The UK is extremely well prepared for this and the response so far has been extremely good.

"We are now moving from what we term containment - which is pressing very hard on all known cases so we can prevent transmission - to outbreak control and treatment.

"Obviously the numbers are going to increase. This is something which nobody has immunity to, so large proportions of the population are going to get it at some point."

Since Friday, 1,604 swine flu cases have been confirmed in England, taking the country's total to 4,968 and the UK's total so far to 5,937.

Last week health officials said the West Midlands, along with London, which has 1,564 confirmed cases so far, would adopt a policy of outbreak management, with swine flu cases being clinically diagnosed rather than being confirmed by laboratory results.

The new policy means swabbing will take place only for a small number of cases to keep track of the strength of the virus.

Doctors will also use the drug Tamiflu more selectively, targeting only people with symptoms. The drug is unlikely to be handed out to everyone who has come into contact with a swine flu sufferer as a precaution.

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Systems & Data Lead – Oxfordshire – Permanent – Up to £24k

    £20000 - £24000 Per Annum 28 days holiday, free parking, pension: Clearwater P...

    Digital Media Manager

    £38000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

    PMO Analyst - Risk - Banking - London - £350-£400

    £350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: PMO Analyst - Risk - Banking - London - £350 - £4...

    Secondary Teachers looking for work near Peterborough

    £100 - £140 per day + Competitive Pay: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary...

    Day In a Page

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?