Most people have gradually adjusted to the day-to-day changes caused by COVID-19, such as washing hands frequently, wearing masks, and social distancing. But others have looked for strategies to get around the hassles caused by the pandemic.
In some cases, this has included deliberately trying to contract the potentially deadly illness through “COVID parties,” events designed to expose people to someone with COVID-19. In some cases, the participants bet on who will catch the disease first, according to news reports.
This strategy is most popular among young people, who tend to be less likely to develop a serious case of COVID-19, says Donald Murphey, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin. But many will lose their bet that nothing serious will happen.
“Most of them will have mild cases of the disease,” Dr. Murphey said. “But even then, we’re hearing more and more about healthy people who are young and have ‘long-haul COVID.’ They have a mild-to-moderate illness, but then they have fatigue and muscle aches for months.”
Throwing a party to catch a disease on purpose is not a new idea. Before the introduction of a chickenpox vaccine in 1995, many parents held these parties to expose their healthy children to the illness because getting it in adulthood is more likely to lead to serious pneumonia and death.
The chickenpox vaccine ended any rationale for these parties, yet some parents still use events like this to expose children to chickenpox, as well as measles and other childhood diseases. (See “Talk to Patients About: Vaccine vs. Natural Immunity,” March 2020 Texas Medicine, page 47, www.texmed.org/WhyShotsAreBest.)
Unlike chickenpox and measles, medical science still has no idea what long-term health problems COVID-19 will cause, Dr. Murphey says. But so far in the short term, physicians have seen it can trigger blood clots as well as inflammation in the kidneys, heart, brain, and lungs.
Other severe health problems could emerge over time, Dr. Murphey says. Also, coronaviruses like the one that causes COVID-19 typically do not provide lifetime immunity. So, contracting the disease on purpose is a needless risk when effective COVID-19 vaccines are on the horizon.
Tex Med. 2020;116(12):33
December 2020 Texas Medicine Contents
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