An Australian mom took to an anti-vaccination Facebook group before Halloween to brag that she was planning to give out chickenpox-tainted lollipops to kids in her neighborhood, sparking controversy and attracting international headlines.
The woman, identified by AOL.com as Sarah Walker RN, posted in a private Facebook group called "Stop Mandatory Vaccination" to say that she wanted to "help" children in her neighborhood by spreading the lollipops and exposing them to the infection. The woman said that her son had recently come down with chickenpox, and believed that she could spread "natural immunity" to other children on Halloween.
While it was once common for parents to intentionally expose their children to chickenpox so siblings would get it over with at the same time, most children now receive the Varicella vaccine, known as the chickenpox vaccine, in order to protect against the disease. The vaccine protects against both the moderate and more severe strains of the infection.
It was not clear if the Facebook post from the mom claiming to spread chickenpox-infected lollipops was genuine or a hoax. The AOL.com report noted that the woman claimed to be a registered nurse at a hospital in Brisbane, but the parent company of the facility where she claimed to work said that she was not employed there or any of its other facilities. A spokesperson for the hospital did say that the Facebook post was being referred to authorities for investigation.
"There are no current or former employees by that name that have worked for Queensland Health as a registered nurse," a spokesperson wrote on Facebook. "This is a serious issue and has been referred to police, who are investigating."
It is not clear if police could be charging the woman, or if she even went through with her plans to hand out the lollipops.
The hospital added to News.com.au that the risk of actually transmitting chickenpox through a tainted lollipop would be extremely small. Chickenpox, an extremely contagious infection marked by a fast-spreading and painful rash, is mostly an airborne disease that spreads through coughs and sneezes from an infected person.As the report noted, Walker responded to the criticism by standing by her decision to spread chickenpox throughout her neighborhood. The woman added that what she did was no different than parents who take their sick children to school or daycare.
"Dear internet trolls," she wrote. "You think you're right by judging me and my trying to report me and get me fired. I don't care. The health and wellbeing of my baby is far more valuable than any job."