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CBS 5 Investigates mail order diseases

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Doctors and medical experts are concerned about a new trend taking place on Facebook. Parents are trading live viruses through the mail in order to infect their children.

The Facebook group is called "Find a Pox Party in Your Area." According to the group's page, it is geared toward "parents who want their children to obtain natural immunity for the chicken pox."

On the page, parents post where they live and ask if anyone with a child who has the chicken pox would be willing to send saliva, infected lollipops or clothing through the mail.

Parents also use the page to set up play dates with children who currently have chicken pox.

Medical experts say the most troubling part of this is parents are taking pathogens from complete strangers and deliberately infecting their children.

One concern is that they are sending the virus through the mail.

A Facebook post reads, "I got a Pox Package in mail just moments ago. I have two lollipops and a wet rag and spit."  Another woman warns, "This is a federal offense to intentionally mail a contagion."

Another woman answers, "Tuck it inside a zip lock baggy and then put the baggy in the envelope :) Don't put anything identifying it as pox."

"This is dangerous", said Dr. A.D. Jacobson, the chief of ambulatory pediatrics at Phoenix Children's Hospital. He said chicken pox is extremely contagious and is something he would never recommend you send in the mail.

Children can encounter complications like encephalitis and skin infections when they're introduced to the disease.

In rare cases children can die from not getting vaccinated. Dr. Jacobson said that he had a child in the hospital that died at 14 months due to chicken pox pneumonia.

"If you have a young child over to your house specifically to get chicken pox, I don't think anyone would like to really consider what would happen if that child ended up being hospitalized," said Elizabeth Jacobs from the University of Arizona College of Public Health.

CBS 5 producers found others asking for more dangerous pathogens. Two people on the Facebook page were looking for measles, mumps, and rubella.

Jacobs said, "I could never feel good about purposely infecting a child with a disease like that."

According to the Facebook page, parents sent contaminated material from Arizona to California, Tennessee, Louisiana, Georgia, and Canada.

Copyright 2011 KPHO. All rights reserved.

Paige Gruner contributed to this report.

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