Dear Ones:There are a number of health concerns that the "OCCUPY" protesters, their supporters/visitors/sight-seers, law enforcement, public health and all who have contact with their 'camps' and 'campers' should be aware of.
You may want to read my article series on the risks of TSA 'pat-downs' at airports as a 'primer' of sorts, to get yourself acquainted with what one needs to be on the 'look-out' for in tight quarters, especially when there is person-to-person contact.
As bad as the unsanitary conditions of TSA 'pat-down' areas are, the conditions "OCCUPY" campsights are infinitely worse.
Essentially, what we have with these protesters is minimal and ineffective sanitation coupled with poor or non-existent medical care.
"OCCUPY" areas are, in many cases, merely 'outdoor homeless shelters' run (for the most part) by those who may or may not have the professional training to do so...And who, even if they do have such training are, according to most news reports, woefully lacking in adequate supplies and back-up.
"OCCUPY" encampments all over lack adequate sheltering materials, not to mention toilet facilities, heat and refrigeration.
Most important of all, many of these "OCCUPY" camps lack the capability to address what even the BEST legitimate 'non-profit homeless shelters' have difficulty adequately handling, which is: mental illness, substance abuse and what is known as 'dual-diagnosis' (mental illness combined with substance abuse of some sort.)
I offer here no remediation other than the obvious, but rather an impartial, apolitical list of 'things to consider' for my fellow human beings at this time in history.
As a 'homeless advocate' for three decades, and as a health care professional well-versed in 'disaster and emergency preparedness' and 'epidemiology', I have a great understanding about what is necessary for the safe and sanitary administration of emergency housing for men, women and pregnant women and women and children.
courtesy www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/body/Let me state simply that "OCCUPY" protesters and others involved with persons involved in this movement, have a great number of sanitation, health, wellness and environmental concerns to contend with.
There are 'human factors' (i.e. acts of violence/man-made disasters) and natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and the like), as well.
Who does "OCCUPY" call in the event of crimes of assault and rape? Who will they 'turn to' if a storm strikes or a diarrheal disease breaks out in the camp?
Many of the 'illnesses and diseases' listed below are reasonably easy to avoid and eradicate nowadays using simple methods of 'good hygiene', camp cleanliness...and impeccable professional medical care at the first sign of trouble.
I'm not sure that "OCCUPY" camps can make the grade, even if and when everyone involved are brought into the mix for the 'betterment of all'. Human nature just does not work that way and we will always have those who, for one reason or other, are 'marginalized'.
What I see is that the "OCCUPY" 'tent cities' will likely go the way of most 'tent cities'.
The cold-hard fact is that an 'urban OCCUPY protester' eating his or her 'designer poached salmon donation' with a working 'grey water' project at their feet will fare no better than a natural disaster victim across the world eating a WHO rations reconstituted with donated clean water.
In fact, camp refugees overseas may well get superior medical and other care if relief workers can get to them and they accepts their offers.
Oh, human pathogens are 'great equalizers' indeed.Diseases we used to 'be protected from' are quite mobile, thanks to jet travel. Diseases, such as smallpox, once believed to be have been 'wiped out' due to worldwide immunization, may not have been...And "OCCUPY" campers must consider whether their close-quarters' 'neighbors' have or have not been immunized against certain pathogens.
My best advice is this: don't rule anything in the following lists IN or OUT if you are feeling ill after having attended an "OCCUPY" event, and visit your health care professional IMMEDIATELY if something doesn't feel right.
Parents: if you 'visit' an "OCCUPY" campsite or live in one, I beg you to consider the health and well-being of your children.
Children, like the elderly and those who are immuno-compromised, are at greater risk when it comes to illness, disease and exposure to extremes of temperature, both heat and cold.
For "OCCUPIERS" and others of all ages, here's your 'list' of things to watch out for.
It's not necessarily 'fully inclusive' and will be updated as necessary.
1) Used/exchanged clothing, bedding, sleeping bags, towels, wash-clothes, anything of cloth (especially when 'damp' or wet) can transmit:
- bed bugs
- lice ('crabs')-head/armpit/body/pubic areas
- scabies (mites)
- ringworm (a fungus, not a 'worm'!)
- MRSA 'Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus' (a bad 'staph' skin infection)
- Molluscum contagiosum (a virus)
- molds of all types
- roaches (potential hitch-hikers in anything made of cloth or paper)
2) Used/Exchanged personal items, razors, utensils, plates, cups, shared childrens' toys, toothbrushes, 'surfaces', used and improperly disposed of bandages, dressings, tampons, sanitary pads, condoms, toilet paper, cigarette butts and all items contaminated with blood, semen, saliva, sputum, feces or any other bodily secretions have the potential to transmit:
- hepatitis B
- hepatitis C
- viral hemorrhagic fevers
- E. coli
- bacterial infections
3) Improperly cooked/handled/heated/stored/prepared food can transmit:
- E. coli O157:H7
- Calicivirus or Norwalk-like virus
- Giardia lamblia
- Clostridium botulinum
- link: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/foodborneinfections_g.htm#mostcommon
- Rat bite fever link: http://www.cdc.gov/rat-bite-fever/
- skin rashes
4) Poor hygiene can encourage:
- vaginitis ('yeast infection')
- bacterial vaginitis ('vaginosis')
- toxic shock syndrome
- bladder infection
- jock itch
- athlete's foot
- folliculitis (infection of the hair follicles)
- furuncles (boils)
- Necrotizing Fasciitis ('Flesh eating disease) due to Streptococcus pyogenes
- blepharitis (eyelid inflammation) complicated by bacterial infection
- flea infestation complications
- lice (head/body/pubic) complications
- scabies (mites)
5) Person-to-Person contact, especially when combined with poor hygiene, can transmit:
- jock itch
- anal abscess
- furuncle (boil)
- carbuncle (group of furuncles)
- genital warts
- tuberculosis (via a TB patient coughing, sneezing, speaking or singing) link: http://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/default.htm
6) Wounds, punctures, lacerations, abrasions improperly or not treated can cause:
- bacterial, viral, protozoan infections
- many diseases included here
7a) Mice in camp can transmit:
- Ratbite fever
- Lyme disease
- Lymphocytic choriomeningitis
7b) Rats in camp can transmit:
- rat bite fever (Streptobacillus moniliformis North America, Spirillum minus Asia)
- other infections (due to bites, droppings)
8) Insects in camp can transmit:
- West Nile virus (mosquitoes)
- Eastern Equine virus (mosquitoes)
- Lyme's disease (ticks)
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever (ticks)
- malaria (mosquitoes)
- Tick-Borne Relapsing fever (ticks)
- MRSA (Brown recluse spider bites)
- dermatitis-like skin conditions-intense itching with and without secondary infections
9) Contaminated water for drinking, bathing, recycling (when some gets into eyes/nose/body orifices/is accidentally swallowed, etc) can transmit:
- Buruli Ulcer
- Dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease)
- Escherichia coli
- Typhoid Fever
- viruses, bacteria, protozoans and parasites ('worms') of all sorts
- Dysentery (Shigella and/or Salmonella)
- Legionnaire's Disease (caused by Legionella)
- 'Swimmers Ear' (Otitis externa)
- Vibrio illness
- Ascariasis (roundworms)
- Echinococcosis (caused by tapeworm larvae)
- Enterobiasis (pin worms)
- Hymenolepiasis (dwarf tapeworm)
- Microsporidiosis (Protozoan)
- SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)
- Hepatitis A
- Polio (rare overall, but found in US, esp in CA, TX & PA http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/stats-surv/vasp/default.htm
- Polyomavirus infection ( JC and BK variants)
- Brain-eating Amoeba (Naegleria fowleri-rare-enters through the nose, to the brain) link: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/faqs.html
- Rat bit fever link: http://www.cdc.gov/rat-bite-fever/
10) Dogs, cats, other pets improperly vaccinated and cared for medically can transmit the following to humans, especially those living in close, unsanitary quarters:
- Bartonella ('Cat Scratch Disease')
- Dog and Cat Flea Tapeworm (Dipylidium Infection)
- Leptospirosis (from dogs)
- Mange (rarely, from dogs)
- MRSA (dogs, cats)
- Plague (cats, dogs bitten by infected fleas)
- Rabies (dogs, cats)
- Ringworm (dogs, cats)
- Sporotrichosis (dogs, cats--a fungus)
- Toxocara infection (roundworms from dogs, cats)
- Toxoplasmosis (protozoan in cats)
- Yersiniosis (usually from pigs, but from dogs and cats, too)
- other infections (due to bites, scratches)
11) Environmental factors can elicit"
- hypothermia/frostbite (cold)
- hyperthermia/heat stroke (heat)
- sunburn/burns/skin cancer (sun exposure)
- dehydration (heat, usually)
- electrolyte imbalance (heat and dehydration)
- trench foot (immersion in water, lack of sock change/foot hygiene)
- asthma/lung/'breathing' issues (dust, 'mites' in bedding & clothes, perfumes/oils, cleaning solutions, roach dropping inhalation, second hand smoke, candle smoke, incense)
- skin rashes/dermatitis (scabies ('mites'), molds, mildews due to rotted food, reused clothing/bedding, allergies to plastics used as 'tarps', etc, DEET allergies, scented baby wipes, perfume allergies, smoke allergies (facial rash usually, swelling), incense allergy (exposed skin 'itches'), second hand smoke, etc
- vaginitis (women be careful with different brands of sanitary products)
- hives (full body) ( something ingested or grossly exposed to-check for food allergies and be careful with 'donated' skin care products such as lotions, powders, sprays, make-up)
- anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction to something exposed to and/or ingested)
It is very difficult to live with minimal creature comforts, especially when the weather (and other factors) are against you.
Winter is coming and the flu season is here. Cold is a 'stressor' which taxes the immune system, thereby weakening it.
Having the 'flu' in an urban 'tent city' will be no picnic.
Influenza readily turns into pneumonia when conditions are poor and a person is not receiving adequate food, rest and relief from the elements.
Also, please note that 'strep throat' (due to Streptococcus bacteria) is extremely common and spreads like 'wildfire' in contained areas when food and water are shared...presenting as yet another thing for "OCCUPY" campers to be on the look-out for.
A 'strep throat' can turn into life-threatening 'Scarlet Fever' very quickly, so if you have a sore throat and notice a head/neck/chest red rash, get medical help IMMEDIATELY.
Remember that the 'fecal-oral' route is responsible for many bad 'infections' such as those caused by E. coli.
So, as much as possible....wash, wash and wash again with soap and water after using the bathroom and whenever you can, all "OCCUPY" participants!
Don't depend on 'hand gels' or 'baby wipes', alone, in lieu of showering.
Also, when you use hand gels or (even better in my opinion70% isopropyl alcohol), do not wipe/shake-off the 'excess'.
Let things 'air dry' for maximum effectiveness of these sanitizers.
Any comments/questions can be directed here (below) or to BarbaraKSexton@aol.com
God Bless & Keep You
Rev. Barbara Sexton
"The Biblical Biochemist-Where Science Meets the Cross"