Public health scares

by L

What do Totebaggers think about recent public health crises: Zika virus, Flint, MI water, etc.? Do you modify your behavior in the face of this type of news?

Zika-linked condition: WHO declares global emergency

Flint Officials Are No Longer Saying the Water Is Fine

As Water Problems Grew, Officials Belittled Complaints From Flint


119 thoughts on “Public health scares

  1. I’ve had malaria and DH almost died of dengue fever. We really limit our travel in mosquito-infested areas now. It’s just not worth it–especially with kids. When we must visit these areas, we use Deep Woods Off religiously. DEET is our friend.

  2. I don’t find I’m affected by it much. If we were thinking about traveling to places where zika and ebola were widespread, I would certainly take it into consideration.

  3. We live too far north for Zika and rarely travel, so I’m not worried about it.

    We may go to Florida in August (yeah, I know, I’ve done it before) but there will be plenty of time to see how it is playing out by then.

    As for Flint, it makes me glad our water is managed by a corporation instead of incompetent officials. Like our garbage collection, it improved when it was privatized.

  4. I’m more concerned about:

    As I understand it Zika is only really dangerous if you’re pregnant. If you’re not pregnant then the symptoms are fairly mild. However, the initial symptom of Chikungunya is sever joint pain and in up to 2/3 of cases the severe musculoskeletal and joint pain can persist for years.

  5. I haven’t thought about either too much in the way of personal considerations. I’m not planning on being pregnant, but I suppose Zika will probably reach Atlanta. My sister is trying to get pregnant but she lives in Westchester so she will most likely be fine. My other sister had a friend who found out she was pregnant just after she and her husband had booked a Caribbean trip but she miscarried before she really had to make a decision on whether to go ahead with the trip.

  6. If I traveled outside the U.S., especially in tropical areas, I would research vaccines and risks more thoroughly. As it is, most public health scares seem minor when I compare the risk to what was common 50+ years ago. What is considered problematic for lead levels in blood (5 micrograms/deciliter or whatever) was common a few decades ago. Mercury is a similar situation- if low levels are as problematic as one US agency states (can’t remember which one), Japan, China and South Korea should be experiencing population-level problems that they don’t appear to be experiencing.

    Maybe I’ll run with Bernie Sanders on the platform of decreasing healthcare costs to be similar to those of other countries by not covering allergy and heavy metals testing as part of a public medical care option, because other countries do much less testing and their public health statistics are at least as good as those in the U.S.

  7. Chikungunya

    Eek! That’s the kind of thing that makes me want to just bathe in tubs full of DEET.

  8. We have lots of mosquitoes at different times of year, when we are not in severe drought. With severe drought back to back for a couple of years coinciding with a population boom, people are not as vigilent about limiting standing water in their yards – potted plants, etc. – which resulted in an awful mosquito season last year. I am hoping that this heightened concern, will get long-time residents back in the habit and newer residents to create the habit. We check our yard after every rain to dump out the water that has collected and the day after we water plants to drain the water that collects in the bottom of the pots.

    In general, when going outside we use repelent and try not to be out very long when at dusk when they seem to be the worst. I am not sure my city would go to spraying, but some areas outside of Houston (one county is almost 100% below sea level) used to spray almost every year. I wonder if they will start that up again.

  9. I’m sure this would never pass a review board, but it would be interesting to follow the kids of Flint and see how many of them wind up as violent criminals. It would be a little data point for the Freakonomics guys’ theory about lead and crime.

  10. Mercury is a similar situation- if low levels are as problematic as one US agency states (can’t remember which one), Japan, China and South Korea should be experiencing population-level problems that they don’t appear to be experiencing.

    They also smoke like chimneys and yet have low levels of cancer. That must mean smoking doesn’t cause cancer. Good to know.

  11. My BIL caught dengue once and spent several weeks in a non-western hospital. Was miserable but they were never worried about him dying.

    Mosquito borne illnesses scare me. My next door neighbor’s horse died of West Nile during one of my previous pregnancies. Our property is mosquito-y enough that even keeping deet right out the back doorand spraying down regularly we still manage to get bites.

    The County does spray though and the mosquito population drops off for several weeks after that. If anything more dangerous ever appeared I would gladly pay extra have the little, yellow airplane dump pesticides on the swampy area behind our house more often.

  12. What is considered problematic for lead levels in blood (5 micrograms/deciliter or whatever) was common a few decades ago.

    Just because it was common doesn’t mean it was a good thing.

  13. We were in one of the Zika-affected areas in December with my newly pregnant SIL. She/the baby is being followed very carefully and she is super stressed out by it. I was worried about chikungunya while there, so I made everyone wear the highest % of Deet that I found, but I still got bit a bit bunch of times, though mostly in the evening.

    The Flint water situation is terrible. Those poor people.

  14. DH contacted malaria while on a two week visit to the home country. He was fine there but developed symptoms when he arrived back. At first he thought it was just illness/fatigue he picked up on the trip but then it was distinctively malaria. He had lost the immunity he had. My kids have had all the standard infectious diseases shots. If you are not vaccinated, these tropical diseases are very severe. I have had a few of them as a child. I find the push back on the polio vaccine very alarming because I know seniors who have survived where siblings died or were disfigured. The rapid urbanization, unsanitary conditions causes these outbreaks to be more widespread than they might have been in the past.

  15. Rhett, the prospective study didn’t show that lead was as significant a factor as the retrospective study you refer to did. I firmly believe that the levels in the ’70’s were problematic, but if they’ve been cut by 90% (to 5 micrograms/deciliter or whatever), how sure can we be that cutting them by 95% (to 2.5 micrograms/deciliter or whatever) will continue to reduce crime?

  16. I am concerned about mosquito-borne viruses generally. Our county sprays regularly, and we spray our yard regularly, but in the summertime I can spend 2 minutes taking out the trash and come in with 10+ bites. Mosquitos here will bite right through long pants & shirts.

  17. I hate the way each health scare is publicized. The talking heads on the news programs make each and every one sound like a catastrophe such that we tune them all out. If I were looking to get pregnant i’d be more concerned right now about Zika. I’d never even heard of some of the mosquito-borne illnesses, and that sounds horrific.

    The water in Flint is a tragedy, and makes me think that as places continue penny pinching instead of investing in infrastructure, there are going to be some big human costs to that.

  18. Rhett, my understanding is that China has a high rate of cancer which is increasing, to the alarm of everyone. Japan has one of the highest rates of stomach cancer in the world, but I think that has been linked to their high intake of pickled things.

  19. The public health things that scare me most are drug resistant tuberculosis, and the various strains of avian flu that threaten every so often to break out. I would not like to see a replay of the 1918 flu.

  20. More data:

    Since then, the data for the lead theorists has become more and more detailed. Nevin and his supporters predicted that crime would fall in other nations 20 years after the banning of leaded petrol – and their theory appears to have played out in Europe.
    Leaded petrol was removed from British engines later than in North America – and the crime rate in the UK began to fall later than in the US and Canada.
    Lead theorists say that data they’ve collated and calculated from each nation shows the same 20-year trend – the sooner lead is removed from the environment, the sooner crime will begin to fall.

  21. We’re going to a Zika area for spring break. We will just wear Off. I wouldn’t go if I was expecting or trying to get pregnant.

    The virus will most certainly spread to the northeast this summer, but we will take precautions just like we do for Lyme and other mosquito illnesses. We have to very careful about Lyme all of the time. We see deer everyday.

    I was worried when I came back from Mexico right after swine flu broke out. One of my pregnant coworkers didn’t want me to come to work until I found out if I was infected.

    I have to admit that some of the precautions I started that year are part of my routine now. I use hand sanitizer or wash my hands any time we go to a buffet. It’s gross to observe what people do before they touch a serving utensil. The same is true of pumping gas and a few other places that I never thought of as huge germ transmitters until swine flu scare.

  22. Rhett, but your studies are all retrospective, and they don’t confirm what the prospective studies show. Why are lead levels at age 6 years more significant than lead levels in utero or at birth? That isn’t consistent with other developmental toxicology effects.

    The evidence is pretty good that lead at some level (my argument is at what blood level we can be sure that lead, vs. some other environmental factor, accounts for the negative effects) affects grey/white matter distribution in the brain. We also know that long-term breastfeeding (for example) affects grey/white matter distribution in the brain. Lead levels and breastfeeding levels both track with socioeconomic status.

    Have you found any data on dose-response?

  23. “The water in Flint is a tragedy, and makes me think that as places continue penny pinching instead of investing in infrastructure, there are going to be some big human costs to that.”

    This. The tragedy in Flint is/was 1000% preventable. And more tragedies will occur as states and towns choose short term solutions for long term problems. I’m waiting for infrastructure to fail in RI. And the state continually says “we have no money to pay for it” while infrastructure deteriorates. If the state chose to keep the funds allocated to repairs in the “repair” envelope instead of putting it in the “general” envelope we wouldn’t be having this fight. The quickest example is bridge and roads – if the gas tax $$ was kept in the “repair” envelope like it’s supposed to be, we wouldn’t have to go down the slippery slope of tolls as a source of money to repair bridges that haven’t been inspected/repaired in my lifetime.

    On lead – Rhett – your examples cite lead levels in air… the Flint issue is water-borne. Yes, lead is a particulate, but the delivery mechanism to the body is different – one inhalation the other ingestion. I wonder if that changes how the lead is processed by our bodies… Unfortunately, I don’t have the time today to explore that… By skimming all the articles, there doesn’t seem to be a difference… idle curiosity for another time

  24. I have colleagues going to do field work in Zika regions. I don’t think their organization has seen so much purchasing of bug repellent spray and clothing in years. But when you send a bunch of child-bearing-aged women into these regions, the organization would rather be safe than sorry (as would the women).

  25. Have you found any data on dose-response?

    Of special interest and concern are the results of recent studies that have reported neurobehavioral deficits in children associated with PbBs <10 μg/dL and an apparent lack of threshold down to even the lowest PbBs recorded in these studies.

    The evidence seems to indicate getting levels down below 2.5 μg/dL would be beneficial.

  26. No- I can’t get to the full report on this, but it appears that the measured intervals were 5 ug/dl. 2.5 ug/dl is probably better than 5 ug/dl if we could control that as the sole population statistic, but we can’t. I’m not convinced that removing aged lead pipes in city water systems is worth the cost and disruption. And like Rhode, I don’t know if the form that lead takes is important, or if anyone knows.

    My argument is not that leaded gasoline was not problematic. My argument is that lead exposure for children in Flint is a tertiary developmental variable below 5-10 ug/dl.

  27. The way in which officials ignored local complaints and early evidence that the change in water supply to Flint was unhealthy was criminal, IMHO. The state of Michigan installed bottled water in its state offices and told the workers not to drink the local water.

    DDT was banned because its extremely effective killing of insects and long lived chemical composition was considered extremely harmful to the food chain, especially for birds and small amphibians/reptiles/mammals. But that means that mosquito borne illness is back with us to stay. When DDT was banned, the world was not as interconnected as it is now, so the diseases were more confined to the less developed world and “out of sight”. The increase in warmth at higher latitudes since then has greatly increased the carrier mosquito habitat.

    However, Mooshi is right that a rapidly mutating respiratory or flu virus is the greatest threat for a worldwide pandemic. The stresses on the planet from human population, exploitation/development and expansion of habitat are real. If a quarter of the world’s population were wiped out, it would be a human tragedy, but not an ecological one.

  28. I’m not convinced that removing aged lead pipes in city water systems is worth the cost and disruption.

    That’s not the solution. The primary reason lead started to leach out of the pipes in Flint was because the switched from low chloride Detroit water to high chloride river water.

    It was determined that the river water, which, due to higher chloride concentration, is more corrosive than the lake water, was leaching lead from aging pipes

  29. I have to admit that some of the precautions I started that year are part of my routine now. I use hand sanitizer or wash my hands any time we go to a buffet. It’s gross to observe what people do before they touch a serving utensil. The same is true of pumping gas and a few other places that I never thought of as huge germ transmitters until swine flu scare.

    What you really need to watch out for are shopping cart handles and ATM keypads.

  30. Dh always wipes down shopping cart handles. He is a big germaphobe and I am completely the opposite. I wash my hands with soap and water and never use hand sanitizer (which kills good bacteria on your skin). However, I may consider mosquito yard spray for this summer.

  31. Rhett, lead water pipes have a protective coating that has been corroded away in Flint. Obviously, untreated corrosive water should never have been put through those pipes. I suspect researchers will be working on ways to safely recoat lead pipes, for Flint and other cities around the world. But the question of what to do now, in Flint and in other cities where the coatings on aged water pipes are believed to generally be in better condition, is one for cost-risk-benefit analysis, not a blanket “lead is bad for our children.”

    To me, the question is similar to that of flame retardant chemicals on children’s pajamas. Do the benefits of flame retardant chemicals outweigh the risks, especially on pajamas vs. couches?

  32. Don’t laugh but I think DH is just prone to getting bit by insects. This makes him an attractive target. I rarely spray my skin with bug spray but then I don’t have a sign that says “Bite here”.

  33. Lyme is very scary. I know a young couple who were diagnosed with late-stage Lyme. They had to give up their jobs and move with their kids to live with the grandparents. Neither was aware of a tic bite. Apparently not everyone gets that distinctive rash.

  34. “What you really need to watch out for are shopping cart handles and ATM keypads.”

    Or not.

    I wash my hands after going to the bathroom**, before preparing food (and during if preparation includes handling raw meat of any kind), and other times when I know they’re dirty. Sometimes, rarely, I use hand sanitizer and I don’t carry any in my car, gym bag, briefcase. I probably wash my hands more frequently if someone in the house is actively ill.

    Maybe I’m just lucky/naïve/stupid, but I don’t worry too much about getting something from everyday living situations like shopping carts, atm keypads, gym equipment. Ya have to build up resistance to disease sometime.

    **what do you all do about using a portapotty at an event/festival etc. Maybe they SHOULD have sanitizer nearby, but often they don’t; maybe I SHOULD carry it, but I don’t. Are all of you so prepared that that situation never happens/happened to you? I figure out how to at least somewhat wash my hands before I eat.

  35. Random first world rant. My fancy Saeco- Philips espresso maker has been in the shop (in the Bronx) for a covered warranty repair for 5 weeks. I called the shop today after dutifully waiting the projected month, and they are still waiting for a part. Apparently said parts are shipped from Italy via container whenever a shipment goes out to the US Philips warehouse, so I could be without the machine for two months or more. The current list price (I paid much much less) is 3K. Luckily for this coffee addict I kept the starter Saeco espresso machine I had and also uncovered a French press and a single serve pourover pot in the back of a cabinet, so we have had no break in consumption. But WTF? You can’t airship the part or make sure your warehouse is well stocked? If you can’t fix it in the specified number of days, don’t you just replace it with a new or reconditioned machine? Maybe that service is reserved for those who pay full price at Williams Sonoma.

  36. We pulled two ticks off of my son last year in New England. I was talking to my friend from high school about it because we were with her right after it happened and she said the dr. she talked to said as long as you get them off right away there is a low chance of Lyme Disease. My sister had Lyme when we were kids but she was fine after treatment. My BIL got it last year or the year before and it took a long time to get a diagnosis. He was very sick and they had been hiking a week or two beforehand and he was pulling a ton of ticks off. We don’t really worry about it down here so I have to always remember to check the kids when we’re up north in the summer.

    Louise, mosquitos do like certain people more than others (and I’m one of them). I believe type O blood type and pregnant women are big targets.

  37. This might be a better explanation:

    The Langelier Saturation Index is a means of evaluating water quality data to determine if the water has a tendency to form a chemical scale. In order to use this index, the following laboratory analysis is needed: pH, conductivity, total dissolved solids, alkalinity, and total hardness.

    In manipulating the data, the actual pH of the water is compared to the theoretical pH (pHs) based on the chemical analysis. The Saturation Index =
    SI = pH – pHs
    The Saturation Index is typically either negative or positive and rarely 0. A Saturation Index of zero indicates that the water is “balanced” and is less likely not to cause scale formation. A negative SI suggests that the water is would be undersaturated with respect to carbonate equilibrium and the water may be more likely to have a greater corrosive potential.

    A corrosive water can react with the household plumbing and metal fixtures resulting in the deterioration of the pipes and increased metal content of the water. This reaction could result in aesthetic problems, such as bitter water and stains around basins/sinks, and in many cases elevated levels of toxic metals. A positive SI suggests that water may be scale forming. The scale, typically a carbonate residue, could clog or reduce the flow in pipes, cause buildup on hot water heaters, impart an alkali taste to the water, reduce the efficiency of the water heaters, and cause other aesthetic problems.

  38. Fred, I stock our cars for the apocalypse, so if we go somewhere with inadequate hand washing facilities I take the sanitizer from the trunk. There are also wipes, paper towels, a clean bath towel, and a spare outfit for each child. A portable potty too.

    And I also have a complete first aid kit with splints, Israeli battle dressings and bloodstopping powder, the name of which escapes me.

    DH made fun of me until one of the kids barfed all over the car while we were on vacation, and we were able to clean the car, change his clothes and seat him on the towel for a forty minute drive back to civilization.

  39. Maybe I’m just lucky/naïve/stupid, but I don’t worry too much about getting something from everyday living situations like shopping carts, atm keypads, gym equipment. Ya have to build up resistance to disease sometime.

    I agree. My wife is always amazed at how lax I am about germs as a medical professional. I just find it funny that the “germophobes” usually ignore the biggest sources of germ spreading.

  40. Styptic powder, Sky. It’s also used for stopping the bleeding if you cut a rabbit’s claw too short or if a bird breaks a blood feather. Although I think the reason drug stores carry it is for shaving cuts.

  41. Fred – I have a tiny but magic (for the amount of stuff that can be extracted from it) mom’s pouch in my purse or backpack with everything one might need. It includes hand sanitizer and an ATM screen wipe pad. The supermarket has wipers right by the carts. But frankly, I don’t use any of that in every day situations, just for the port a potty or eating outdoors, or when my grandkids are germy and I want to stay healthy for DH’s sake. Both he and I play bridge and handle dozens of playing cards a week that have been also been handled or coughed on by people of undetermined health and hygiene, and somehow we survive.

  42. “it is for shaving cuts.”

    Yup. Back before the days of cartridge razors (originally with only 1 blade, now with up to 5) people regularly used ‘safety’ razors, although from what I remember of my dad and the number of little pieces of toilet paper he had on his face, he regularly cut himself. The styptic pencil helped stop the bleeding quicker. Maybe they were safer than straight razors. All I know is with today’s razor technology I rarely cut myself…maybe a handful of times/year.

    I’m actually surprised styptic powder/pencils are still around.

  43. I became a huge germaphobe after my oldest was in the hospital for months and the NICU doctors and nurses told me I was responsible for keeping him healthy/respiratory illness-free his first winter. I hate and avoid shaking hands. I don’t touch door knobs, keyboards, gas pumps, ATM key pads or pretty much anything without washing my hands ASAP. I make everyone wash hands after being out in public. I am not a big fan of hand sanitizer, but will use it in a pinch. We have cut way down on illnesses since I started doing this, but school is a Petri dish of disgustingness.

  44. I’m not particularly diligent about handwashing. I have noticed Baby WCE gets colds frequently at childcare but her brothers (in large public school classes) rarely get sick. For those who have had infants in group care, is there an age where they’ve developed enough immunity that they start getting sick less?

  45. “We pulled two ticks off of my son last year in New England.”

    This will need to be a consideration as DS decides where to go to college. Perhaps we can mitigate this risk by having him come home for summers.

  46. “If a quarter of the world’s population were wiped out, it would be a human tragedy, but not an ecological one.”

    I read somewhere that when the Mongols wiped out some large swaths of population, forests recovered.

  47. WCE – our #3 child, age 3.6, gets everything the 2 other kids bring home. I think it gets better after age 4 or so, may be earlier for Baby WCE.

    I wash hands often and don’t touch my face with my hands, and I have found that this has cut WAY down on the number of colds that I get. I don’t use hand sanitizer or worry about touching things. The kids get sick more than I do, but they are not good about handwashing – I have to send them back in for a do-over about 8 times out of 10.

  48. “We really limit our travel in mosquito-infested areas now.”

    How do you do this? Winter traveling would be one way (e.g., ski trips), but since you don’t like to ski…

    Perhaps the combination of Zika and the Olympics will lead to some reforestation.

  49. For those who have had infants in group care, is there an age where they’ve developed enough immunity that they start getting sick less?

    That was my experience. And for myself as well, since I’m exposed to everything they bring home, eventually it seemed like I’d had at least a close relative of all the bugs out there so now I get mostly mild-feel-kinda-punk colds and far fewer board-to-the-head colds.

  50. “For those who have had infants in group care, is there an age where they’ve developed enough immunity that they start getting sick less?”

    My non-scientifically-based anecdote suggests that the group illnesses really cluster together for a while and then go away after about 6 mos. to a year. DS started in daycare at about 10 weeks, and he was the healthiest kid imaginable for the first year. Then, the day before his 1st birthday, he popped a fever, and the next 3 months was basically one-thing-after-your-mother — I didn’t have a single week that whole winter without missing at least one day of work for some crazy kid illness. And then it just sort of faded away come that spring and never really came back — he’ll get the occasional whatever that’s going around, but at about an order of magnitude less frequency and severity than that first 3-4 months. Knock on wood. . . . So at least IME, daycare did a very good job of getting the crap out of the way before real school started.

    @DD — congrats on the school issue. Nice to know you’re not the only one.

  51. “I wash hands often and don’t touch my face with my hands”

    Do you sneeze into your elbow? I think Mythbusters concluded that this was the technique that minimized the transmission of germs.

  52. I kind of hated typing that because I feel like I’m asking whatever ancient gods are in charge of colds to hit me with a whopper. Please don’t! I swear I didn’t intend hubris!

  53. Finn, the ticks only live outdoors in a specific habitat on the forest verge and meadow (and on chipmunks and field mice). They can’t survive long on a dry surface, or indoors.

    Your DS will probably be fine unless he takes up golf, hiking or horseback riding, or starts rolling down hillsides off campus. Campus lawns are treated with broad spectrum pesticides.

    My yard is prime tick habitat and we don’t spray, but in seven years we have had one tick exposure and it was negative. We do use tick tubes, which I highly recommend.

  54. Finn – yup. It took a while to retrain myself to do that (I had been sneezing into a kleenex, way worse) but now I do it automatically.

  55. Sky, per your link Suitable for bullet, blast, or stabbing injuries

    I guess your kids aren’t limiting themselves to nicks and scratches?

  56. The schools and daycares have taught all my kids the elbow thing, Finn. And now I do it too.

    My kids didn’t get super sick, but had a constant runny nose the first year of daycare, which led to some ear infections, etc. We still get hit by one good illness most years– usually of the stomach virus variety. (Sigh.) But at this point, the 3, 5, and 8 year olds are infrequently sick, and seem to have already had some variation of another. Mine all got some illness with a 24 hour fever over the holiday season, and I was mostly amazed that 24 hours later their immune systems had kicked it all out. I think after the early months it gets way better.

  57. I mean, I guess it’s something you hope never to need.

    If I kept it around my kids would inevitably use it for something minor. When I stock up on gauze bandages and rolled gauze and that sort of thing, all of a sudden they’re doing these hospital-style dressings every time they get scratched from trying to blow a raspberry on the alpha rabbit’s tummy. (They shouldn’t do that.)

  58. WCE, I agree with LfB – the worst end by a year. The nice thing is when they start K, they don’t get sick like the non-daycare kids do.

  59. It’s in the car and I would only use it in a bad car accident. I originally bought it when we had the renovation done in case someone sliced off a finger with the power saw (one of the workers, I mean, not a kid). One of the framers liked to rest the 2×6 on his leg while he used the saw and it scared me.

  60. Both kids were in daycare – the colds, coughs and low fevers were prevelant in their first year. After that the occassional cold and strep throat. Going to school didn’t have an impact. Tummy aches occasionally from pigging out on certain foods/candy (DS and DD both learned that the oft quoted saying was true).

  61. Finn – some of my favorite climate studies are ones that look at how humans altered the environment before the Industrial Revolution. It’s fascinating to see how much of our environment was altered/restored by poor medical care and war.

    A grad school professor used some work by WF Ruddiman (can’t find an open source copy unfortunately) which linked the increase in CO2 in the environment to agriculture and subsequent deforestation in an intro class.

  62. Though, the article you cited, Finn, could be used to say “see, mankind can’t affect the environment at all”… out of context, but when did context matter anyway.

  63. I don’t touch anything, but my post would be too long if I described everything. I’ve added things post swine flu. I find a lot of tips through undercover stories on the Today show because Lauer is a germ phone. For example, I no longer use hotel glasses without washing and I wipe every surface possible.

    I do the same on airplanes. Screens, buttons, lights, seat belts. Everything.

    I started to hate stuff like valet parking after the swine flu too. They touch every key and car all day.

    Im trying to ignore a new thing that I added last summer – lice. That lice lady could make you crazy, but I’m still going to movies and concerts.
    im still living my life though. I’m on the subway right now. The weather is miserable, but I had a great lunch in meat packing district. I love that I get to celebrate my college and HS friends milestone bdays too. I think these big bdays are a wonderful excuse for splurging on some great meals, concerts and hotels.

  64. liked to rest the 2×6 on his leg while he used the saw

    That must have given you a lot of confidence in their workmanship generally.

  65. “We really limit our travel in mosquito-infested areas now.”

    Considering where I live, it’s all relative. : ) All 3 cases of mosquito-borne illness in my family came from visits to one country in particular, so that’s off the list (as much as possible). We also avoid certain countries in Africa. Given the sheer nastiness of the diseases that my family has come down with, I’m a little sensitive.

    Actually, more countries now are “off the list” due to terrorism than disease.

  66. Finn–I had not considered ticks/Mosquitos in the college location calculus. You’ve now given me something else to stress about.
    My kids each spent their first two years at home with a nanny. One kid was constantly sick with colds and ear infections, the other kid never got sick. And neither of them really got sick much even when they started at daycare. In other words a lot of it depends on the kid.

  67. I have several little bottles of hand sanitizer all unused. I always take it when we go on trips but it is never used. There have always been sinks with water, tissues or paper towels available. It doesn’t occur to me that I need to use hand sanitizer when I touch common surfaces.

  68. To my fellow germaphobes – according to a blog I read (something legit, not something ridiculous), regular hydrogen peroxide is the most effective cleaner for bacteria. Spray and let sit. Kills salmonella, e-coli and a bunch of other stuff. Lysol and vinegar basically do nothing in real life settings. You need to keep it in a opaque spray bottle (I have some brown ones from Amazon). I spray the kitchen sink, bathroom sinks and toilets every day.

  69. Finn and others, I don’t think you should choose a college based on concerns about Lyme. (IMHO).

    There are easy precautions to take and most young adults won’t be exposed on a daily basis unless they go for hikes or play certain sports.

    I doubt they will see the amount of deer that I see daily.

    I also don’t like to let people touch my cell or vice versa. HUGE amount of germs on the phones, but kids share phones all of the time.

  70. Baby WCE has a good immune system. Her childcare shut down for a couple days due to an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease and she either didn’t get it or had such a mild case I didn’t notice. Your comments are encouraging.

    I keep hand sanitizer in my purse and diaper bag to be used after diaper changes and port-a-potties. I figure it’s better than nothing.

    The moms I know who are most diligent also seem to have the kids who get sick most, causing me to suspect that some kids are naturally more vulnerable than others. The “My kids get colds a couple times/year” moms, like me, tend to be more laid back, probably because we can be.

  71. WCE, as your children get older and develop more mature immune systems, they may bring home new and improved germs that can take down your immune system. I’m still battling the virus the eldest brought home in December.

  72. “The moms I know who are most diligent also seem to have the kids who get sick most, causing me to suspect that some kids are naturally more vulnerable than others. ”

    WCE – I wonder if it’s a bit of both… And unfortunately hard to “test” with anecdata.

    I know some very diligent moms whose kids never get sick or are sick all the time. Those moms either pat themselves on the back, or use it as a reason to double down. I tend to be middle of the road – I can’t stop every germ at the door, but we can be a little practical.

    DS has had sniffles, but he’s also cared for at home, and spends maybe 1-2 days a week with other kids or family members. He also didn’t get many of the typical preemie sicknesses (RSV comes to mind). Is that him or is that environment? To quote a Tootsie pop commercial – The world may never know. I’ll be able to report a better longitudinal study next year when he goes to daycare part time.

  73. I have to mention this – for those with babies, we used to diligently use the suction to suck out the cold from DS’s nose. Same with DD. I was terrified of my kids getting ear infections and this cold sucking business kept them ear infection free.

  74. “regular hydrogen peroxide is the most effective cleaner for bacteria. ”

    That’s why I regularly use H2O2-based bleach products when I do laundry.

  75. Finn – I agree with others – don’t stress the ticks. If your children do choose a place that’s known for Lyme disease (hello New England), there are plenty of resources on how to deal with a tick if found. I don’t see a lot of deer, but I still pull at least 1-10 ticks off me every summer. I check myself religiously, regardless if we’ve been in the backyard or the woods. And, every region has its icky insects – I lived in FL, in a prime place to get chiggers (they live in Spanish Moss). I avoided that too.

  76. I am super diligent re: germs except I have little control when they are at school. So, all illnesses originate with the 2 kids who are in school. My baby has a stellar immune system. Had RSV at 2 months and barely sneezed. The older two had it so I had her tested and it was positive. I honestly wouldn’t have known she had it otherwise. My older two get hit much harder by things. She has had one fever in her life for about 8 hours total. Had she been my only child, I am sure I would be much more relaxed about germs.

  77. We live in mosquito central. West Nile disease is endemic. I have been trying to find out for years if get west Nile once, are you immune from then on?

  78. We have a few bats that live in our yard and that’s probably why it isn’t so bad for mosquitos. Our old house was the worst, I couldn’t even go outside in the summers. There was a little pond a street over and I think that attracted them. I probably will bite the bullet and spray this summer. I need to research if there are any public companies that fight mosquitos if we’re talking pandemic.

  79. I was actually commenting more on my ability to stress about anything….
    We live in a Lyme disease area and DS has survived many years of Boy Scout camp.

  80. Rhode and Cordellia,

    Do bats serve as an effective mosquito control?
    Recently the public has shown increased interest in the value of insectivorous species of bats in controlling mosquitoes. Although untested lately, this is not a new idea. During the 1920’s several bat towers were constructed near San Antonio, Texas, in order to help control malarial mosquitoes. Mosquito populations were not affected and the project was discontinued. Bats in temperate areas of the world are almost exclusively insectivorous. Food items identified in their diet are primarily beetles, wasps, and moths. Mosquitoes have comprised less than 1% of gut contents of wild caught bats in all studies to date.

  81. Rhett – no one said that bats were the panacea to mosquitoes. Restoring or replacing habitat and doing our (royal our) best to maintain ecological integrity of our cities, suburbs and ex-burbs would do a world of good for everything – from storm water control to mosquito control and increasing bee population.

  82. a $60 bat house perched high up in a tree on your property to reduce nuisance insect populations seems like a good deal to me. They can have all the moths they want – they are annoying when they get in the house.

  83. Ya, Rhett, they aren’t native to New England… they should be supported in their native territory.

  84. I would add it’s interesting to learn that there are people out there monitoring and adjusting the water supply so that on the one hand we don’t all get lead poisoning and on the other hand all the pipes don’t clog with mineral deposits. My hat is off to these unsung heroes of the potable water world.

  85. Having spent the better part of a year caring for a kid with no immune system, I learned a thing or two. Some of the precautions we had to take were really draconian – no raw fruits or vegetables, for example, and no fresh flowers allowed in the house or his room. One of the daycare moms worked for a company that makes these huge tubs of sanitary wipes for the hospital industry, so she gave us what seemed like a lifetime supply. The one takeaway from that period is that I am still very insistent that we use the dishwasher, on its highest “saniclean” cycle, for everything.

  86. Rhett, re bats, there are so many mosquitos I will take any help I can get, including the mosquito fish. Several cities around here will pass out mosquito fish for canals, stock ponds and rice fields. Mosquitos are paper of the natural ecosystem and I have no qualms about not wanting to restore that.

  87. Sky – reading about your supplies in your car made me realize whyou you need a minivan/SUV :)

    Benefits Lawyers – I think one of your kids went to my alma mater. My good friend went to Costa Rica for a short study abroad in the rainforest. She came home with a bot fly (mosquito born). I popped it out for her.

  88. Milo,
    I don’t know if you were talking about attracting bats in general or to your area in particular. Bat populations in Virginia have been decimated by a disease known as White-Nose Syndrome. It was first reported in Bath Co. in 2009 and has since spread throughout the US. Millions of bats have been killed since then, in some areas wiping out entire colonies. Putting up bat houses will have little or no effect if there are no bats around to attract.

  89. Sad to have missed the discussion today. I am of the dirty house, dirty workspace, dirty shopping cart philosophy. I never use hand sanitizer, don’t like situations are my children are forced to use hand sanitizer. I think beyond killing normal skin flora, there likely hormonal affects of many of the chemicals in hand sanitizer, and most children put their fingers in their mouth more often then we would like.

    There is a story in the fringe, not so reliable media, that the Zika virus may not be related to microcephaly at all. Some people are connecting it to a certain insecticide that has been added to the Brazilian water supply. Of course, the areas with the most mosquitoes have received the most exposure to this chemical. The areas with the most mosquitoes are also likely to have the most infections with a mosquito transmitted virus too. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next year. I am thankful that I have no intention of getting pregnant – it is concerning.

    On the Flint water supply, I agree that there are criminal aspects of the way that was handled. I’ve also read something that implied that there wasn’t actual cost savings in switching the water supply over and leaving Detroit, but that some people became personally enriched by the scheme. This may not be an issue of shortsightedness as much as it is an issue of corruption.

    On the hygiene thing, I certainly don’t speak for all in my profession. I have colleagues who will come to work, and spend the first 10 minutes of their shift cleaning the keyboard, the desktop, the chair, etc. I connect the increased hygiene, even the beneficial aspects of it, to increased autoimmune disease.

  90. “Bat populations in Virginia have been decimated by a disease known as White-Nose Syndrome.”

    That’s too bad. I still see them regularly in the summer at dusk.

  91. I have heard from a number of my relatives that they are not using commercial cleaners but vinegar, baking soda and soap to clean their homes. I thought this was interesting because I heard this from different families.

  92. We clean the microwave by heating a mixture of 1 cup white vinegar and 1 cup water for 10 min. Then wipe the interior down.

  93. I connect the increased hygiene, even the beneficial aspects of it, to increased autoimmune disease.

    Ada, I tend to agree. I also think that’s tied in to the increase in food allergies as well. All the sanitizing is preventing developing immune systems from doing their job.

  94. I follow something like the Fred philosophy of hand washing & sanitizing. Wash hands when bathroom is used, after riding public transit, before/after handling food. This still seems to have me washing my hands really frequently. Frequently enough that I seem to constantly be putting lotion on my hands, even in summer.

    I don’t own hand sanitizer. We had some in the diaper bag back in the day, but rarely used it as we usually were changing diapers somewhere with running water & soap anyway.

    I purposely do not buy any “anti-bacterial” cleaners for our house either. I have never wiped down a shopping cart handle or an ATM keypad or anything like that. I WILL use a paper towel to open the bathroom door though if there is a garbage can handy to drop my paper towel into – it just seems wrong somehow to touch the door handle within a second of finishing washing my hands. I know it’s a little silly, but I still do it.

    We don’t have a lot of mosquitos in the city. I’ve always been curious why that is. There are plenty in the suburbs/country and even in the inner ring suburbs spray for West Nile, but in 15 years living here, I have never gotten a mosquito bite while within city limits. I spend lots of time outside & at the parks.

  95. About Flint –
    The corruption began in Detroit decades ago. The control that Detroit had on charging other cities for water begins and ends with corruption that the Feds have been battling for years (Kwame Kilpatrick for example). It is because of this corruption that Flint pulled out of Detroit, causing a domino effect. The Flint issue really hits close to home and is extremely upsetting that our government failed to protect children from being poisoned.

  96. HM, we keep a small flock of sheep and live on a highway. Almost every year we have people pull up into the driveway and ask about buying lambs because they’re SO CUTE. There was a particular piece of work last year who wanted one for his girlfriend and was pretty teed off when we absolutely wouldn’t sell him one. He made some vaguely threatening comments on his way out about getting her one “one way or another” on his way out. I’m pretty sure he was on something. So, your story sounds totally believable to me.

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