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With wintry weather poised to swoop into the cramped outdoor quarters of Occupy Wall Street protesters, it may not be long before more campers catch what's being called "Zuccotti lung."
That's what demonstrators have dubbed the sickness that seems to be spreading among them at an unpleasantly high rate these days: "It's a real thing," Willie Carey, 28, told the New York Times.
With little sleep in cold conditions, cigarettes and drinks being passed from mouth to mouth, and few opportunities to wash hands, Zuccotti Park may now just be the best place to catch respiratory viruses, norovirus (also known as the winter vomiting virus) and tuberculosis, according to one doctor.
The damp clothing and cardboard signs wet with rain are also breeding grounds for mold. Some protesters are urinating in bottles and leaving food trash discarded throughout the campground, providing further opportunities for nastiness.
“Pretty much everything here is a good way to get sick,” Salvatore Cipolla, 23, from Long Island, told the Times. “It’ll definitely thin the herd.”
Some protesters have refused free flu shots, citing a "government conspiracy," the Times said.
There is also the increased risk among the encampment of sexually transmitted diseases, said the doctor, Dr. Philip M. Tierno, Jr. of the NYU Langone Medical Center. And the site's pounding circles could lead to hearing damage.
Tierno compared conditions at the park to the pilgrimage to Mecca, in which entire groups of people have come down with respiratory infections in short period of time, and the communal compounds of the 1960s where sanitation problems and STDs cropped up.
The health department has visited the site and is monitoring.
“It should go without saying that lots of people sleeping outside in a park as we head toward winter is not an ideal situation for anyone’s health,” the department said in a statement.