Protesters weren’t the only ones ‘occupying’ Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. It’s no surprise that after almost two months of communal living in a park with no bathrooms – the potential for bacteria and infection to run rampant finally caused city officials to step in.
So, I say kudos to the Bloomberg administration for finally breaking up the cesspool of garbage in Zuccotti Park.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Mayor Bloomberg ordered the NYPD to move in and clear out the Occupy Wall Street camp. Shortly afterward, the sanitation department took over to clean the once-beautiful park that had been made filthy after months of occupation.
Personally, I was waiting for a major health crisis to break out at any time.
I’m certain that Zuccotti Park was on its way to becoming a source of serious health problems. Already, we have seen cases of pneumonia and tuberculosis crop up in other Occupy camps around the country.
In fact, health officials recently reported that at least two people have contracted TB at a homeless shelter that has been housing “Occupy Atlanta” protesters.
One was confirmed to have a particular TB strain that is resistant to a single, standard medication.
With this news, and then after actually seeing what was going on in Zuccotti Park once the sanitation department got there, I began to wonder: Why did the clean-up take so long to happen?
Among the 26 truckloads of trash, the sanitation department found spoiled foods, hypodermic needles and other drug paraphernalia and evidence of scabies and lice in the park – all of these factors amount to a major problem for any city.
Potentially clinical conditions, such as community-acquired pneumonia and tuberculosis, could have not only affected the Wall Street occupiers, but also the millions of New Yorkers that use lower Manhattan as their workplace or home.
The protesters have argued that their right to free speech has been trampled on by being forced out of the park. I’ve got to be honest – I don’t understand how free speech can give you the right to endanger the health of others.
I hope more local governments dealing with Occupy camps realize that they’re putting their citizens in danger if they don’t stay on top of sanitation and health issues in their respective cities.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.