Possible Illnesses Caused By Human Waste at Occupy Wall Street


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Occupy Wall Street conditions may be a health hazard. Image by David Shankbone

Zuccotti Park, in New York City, has been ‘home’ to the thousands of people participating in the “Occupy Wall Street” protests since September 17, 2011.

When so many people live in a small area, particularly an area that is not equipped for human habitation, sanitation issues and health issues become a concern.

Without proper hand-washing and restroom facilities, protesters face sanitation issues that may lead to illness.

Local citizens, and businesses who support the protesters, have provided bathroom facilities, but some protesters are urinating and defecating in public, according to the New York Post and the Daily Mail, among others.

When not using a proper restroom, it’s unlikely that protesters are washing their hands thoroughly – the combination of human waste and unwashed hands leaves room for diseases to occur.

Fecal-Oral Disease Transmission

Diseases can occur when fecal matter is ingested; this mode of transmission is called the fecal-oral route. When this occurs people can get very sick. Microscopic traces of fecal particles are sometimes found on the hands after using the restroom. If you don’t wash your hands, you can transfer these particles to food and other surfaces such door knobs and keyboards, which leads to transmission to others. If you touch a contaminated object, and then put your hands near or in your mouth, you can become infected with fecal matter.

Water supplies can also be contaminated with fecal matter; when contaminated water is consumed, it can also make you sick. There are many diseases that you can get from ingesting fecal matter, such as: giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis, and shigellosis.


This is the life cycle of Giardia – not something you want in your body: Image by LadyofHats

Giardiasis is an illness caused by the parasite, Giardia intestinalis. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), giardiasis is the most common intestinal parasite in the United States.  When a person becomes infected, some will show signs and symptoms, while others will not. Symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Greasy, floating stool
  • Upset stomach accompanied by nausea and vomiting

Giardiasis can also lead to dehydration because of the loss of fluids and electrolytes lost in diarrhea and vomiting. In some cases symptoms will go away, only to return a few day or weeks later. In most cases, symptoms last one to two weeks. Protesters who do not wash their hands after using the restroom can spread disease by contaminate surfaces in the park, as well as food if they are involved in preparing, serving, or even sharing food items.

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