Growing Health Concerns at Occupy Wall Street

Ashley Sneed (5 PM Micro) is concerned about the protesters (as am I!) who were recently evicted from their spot in lower Manhattan.  She found this article in the New York Times.

As we are all aware, the Occupy Wall Street protest that began in September in New York City is becoming a long-term protest for economic equality.  Besides safety concerns within the city, the self-titled 99% are getting attention from the health department and various officials.   The protest is becoming a growing concern about the spread of disease in Zuccotti Park, located in Lower Manhattan.   Some protesters are even being to say that they have developed “Zuccotti lung,” rather some form of respiratory disease.

Dr. Philip M. Tierno Jr., microbiologist and immunologist at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, stated that protestors are at risk to various respiratory viruses, norovirus (a winter vomiting virus that can lead to vomiting and diarrhea) and tuberculosis due to close quarters with so many people.  Not only does transmission of these viruses pose a concern for the health of all the protestors, but viruses like these can overwhelm the already few bathroom facilities available.  Protesters are already urinating in water bottles and coolers, and with bathrooms clogged with those that are sick, disease is likely to run rampant throughout the park.

Another concern in the park is the ability of the mold to grow.  Since Occupy Wall Street is a protest, there are obviously cardboard signs throughout the park along with plenty of clothing.  With the signs and clothing becoming damp, the park automatically becomes a fertile ground for the growth of mold.  The amount of food scraps throughout the grounds also pose yet another threat to the health of the protesters, as well as the surrounding city.

Because others have begun to see the poor conditions the protesters are living in, a medical tent has been set up.  The medical tent, however, is merely filled with over-the-counter medications and alternative treatments such as herbal remedies often given by so-called shamans.  Former licensed nurse Pauly Kostora says that the health care tents are being called a “triage clinic” and that they “don’t pretend to be a hospital.”  It seems that the medical tents are there for basic reasons, though administration of medications without proper evaluation can lead to many adverse effects.  Even though there are some licensed doctors and nurses on sight, there are simply not enough health care professionals to cover the scene efficiently.  The few that do volunteer are without electricity, therefore, professionals must strap flashlights to their heads to see what they are doing.

The Union Health Center, however, has offered free flu shots in order to help prevent the spread of the disease.  Some protesters though have refused to get the shot, claiming it was a government conspiracy.  And with flu season and with winter nearing, protesters seem to be becoming nervous about the state of their health.  A few weeks ago, a man in the Occupy New Orleans was found dead in his tent and when found, authorities estimated it had been at least two days.  If such a fate were to occur in New York, the protest would be shut down.

Though the protesters believe they are doing some form of good, perhaps they are really just harming their selves and those around them.  Contagions aren’t confined to the park and spread of disease through New York City will in no way have positive benefits.  Perhaps the protesters should think twice about what they’re really doing.

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About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on December 7, 2011, in Guest Post. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Growing Health Concerns at Occupy Wall Street.

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