LIANE HANSEN, host:
There's been another development in swine flu news, so-called swine flu parties, where people supposedly expose themselves to the virus on purpose. While this may just be a false rumor spreading on the Internet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is taking it seriously. It's issued a recommendation on its Web site to avoid such gatherings.
We're joined now by a spokesperson from the CDC, Tom Skinner. Welcome to the program.
Mr. TOM SKINNER (Spokesperson, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention): Thank you for having me.
HANSEN: First of all, is there any evidence that these parties are actually happening?
Mr. SKINNER: You know, we've been getting calls for some time about these so-called swine flu parties and anecdotal reports. And as much as we've looked into them, we have no evidence that they're actually occurring, and certainly that is something that we would highly recommend not happen.
HANSEN: Well, you know, it sounds a little like the chicken pox parties that were held decades ago. I imagine the idea is basically the same. And you'd say there's something wrong with it?
Mr. SKINNER: Yeah. There's just no sense in having unnecessarily exposed your child to a virus that has the potential to cause a lot of illness, particularly if your child has some sort of underlying health condition like asthma or diabetes or some other underlying health condition. Influenza can be very serious.
HANSEN: Well, is it thought then, if you're exposed to it and you get it, then you get immunity to it? I mean, that was the chicken pox philosophy.
Mr. SKINNER: Well, the problem with that is there's so many different viruses out there that mimic the flu. And so, while someone might be, you know, thinking that they're actually being exposed to the flu, they very well might not be. There are lots of other viruses that mimic the flu. And so it's just simply not a good idea to contemplate if they're actually happening.
HANSEN: You use the word if they're actually happening, but you still are dealing with it.
Mr. SKINNER: It was something that we needed to address because we were getting a lot of calls. When we start to get a lot of calls, even if these turned out to be, you know, urban legends or myths, we feel that it's a prudent thing to do to get information out about them.
HANSEN: When you receive calls about these so-called swine flu parties, are the mothers getting their kids together, like, for a play group, a swine flu play group?
Mr. SKINNER: I think it's mostly parents of small children that are, you know, asking questions or sending messages and notes around. We do a really good job of monitoring some of the social media, whether it's Twitter or Facebook. And, you know, we've seen some traffic on those social networks asking about swine flu parties and questions about swine flu parties. We've never been able to really track down that these are happening. So we've just done what we can to respond through interviews like this and posting information on our Web site.
HANSEN: Are you and the rest of the CDC media team kind of running a full-court press right now?
Mr. SKINNER: Absolutely. It's been quite a ride since this virus was first recognized in late April. And we're doing everything we humanly possibly can to educate people about how it's transmitted and what they can do to protect themselves and continuing to strongly encourage people to get vaccinated when vaccine becomes available.
HANSEN: Tom Skinner is a spokesperson for the CDC. Thank you very much.
Mr. SKINNER: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
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HANSEN: Now a question for you. Do you know someone who has held a swine flu party? Have you held one? Join our discussion group at Facebook.com/nprweekend. You can also post comments at npr.org/soapbox.