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So-called swine flu (H1N1) parties, similar in principle to pox parties, have been hotly debated since the virus emerged. In this video, influenza expert Michael Worobey explains why intentionally infecting oneself with swine flu, besides being irresponsible to others, doesn’t guarantee one’s immunity.

Paul Hoffman:  When I was a child, if you had chicken pox there was a practice that many parents adopted; they would take your sibling and have them sleep in the same room, so you were exposed to chicken pox.  The idea was that if you caught it as an adult it would be much more serious, so you should get over it while you’re a child. I heard some suggestions that people wanted to do this in terms of swine flu. Is that a horrible thing to do?

Peter Palese:I think we have [moved] a little bit further along. We don’t have chicken pox problems anymore, we fortunately have a vaccine; I think we also have a vaccine come October of this year. So I think the answer is vaccination, not chicken pox parties.

Michael Worobey:There's one other component. When you get chicken pox then you’re immune for life. When you get measles you’re immune for life. When you get the flu, you’re immune probably till next year, maybe two years down the road because the flu is constantly changing. So it's one of the worst viruses that you could conceive of having a pox party for, because the immunity doesn’t last like it does [with chicken pox]; what you’re doing is you’re creating a scenario where the people at the pox party are probably going to infect other people who weren’t interested in having a pox party, who will infect other people and when you take that into account, to me, it seems irresponsible.

Recorded on:  July 14, 2009