..“It’s called Zuccotti lung,” said Willie Carey, 28, a demonstrator from Chapel Hill, N.C. “It’s a real thing.”
As the weather turns, the protesters in Zuccotti Park, the nexus of the Occupy Wall Street protests in Lower Manhattan, have been forced to confront a simple truth: packing themselves like sardines inside a public plaza, where cigarettes are shared and a good night’s sleep remains elusive, may not be conducive to good health.
“Pretty much everything here is a good way to get sick,” said Salvatore Cipolla, 23, from Long Island. “It’ll definitely thin the herd.”
The city’s health department said that officials had visited the park and that it would continue to monitor conditions with winter looming. “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.
Dr. Philip M. Tierno Jr., the director of clinical microbiology and immunology at NYU Langone Medical Center, said the conditions could leave park-dwellers susceptible to respiratory viruses; norovirus, the so-called winter vomiting virus, which can lead to vomiting and diarrhea and which could quickly overwhelm the limited bathroom facilities in the area; and tuberculosis, which is more common in indigent populations and can be spread by coughing.
Even some camping in the park have grown concerned in recent weeks with the living quarters. Damp laundry and cardboard signs, left in the rain, have provided fertile ground for mold. Some protesters urinate in bottles, or occasionally a water-cooler jug, to avoid the lines at public restrooms. Food, from orange peels to scrambled eggs, is often discarded outside tents.
“I’m amazed that in a park full of revolutionaries, there are large contingents that can’t throw away their own trash,” said Jordan McCarthy, 22, a member of the protesters’ sanitation team.
Demonstrators do maintain a medical tent, filled mostly with over-the-counter medications and alternative treatments, like herbal remedies. Some have spotted shamans walking the premises, Mr. Carey said, though licensed doctors and nurses often take volunteer shifts in the tent as well. Some strap flashlights to their heads, like workers in a mine shaft, because the site becomes so dark at night. (The tent has no electricity.)
Miniature bottles of hand sanitizer have appeared sporadically inside the park, though it is unclear who placed them there. Volunteers at the medical tent also have on-call contacts in acupuncture, chiropractics, massage therapy and psychotherapy, protesters said. ...