And then I came across the following post by DovBear called Health Department takes notice of obscure Jewish ritual:
"From what I understand Shigella spreads more frequently among the OJ because we tend to wash with a cup, often before saying Asher Yatzer. The bacteria goes from your hand to the cup, where it waits for the next person to use the cup for washing.
In the letter that follows (contributed by Efrex) the NYC Health Department seems to acknowledge this problem, however delicately. In any event, its neat to see our rituals acknowledged."
NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE
Thomas Farley, M.D., M.P.H., Commissioner
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) is concerned about a recent increase in the number of children with diarrheal illness caused by the bacteria Shigella in the Borough Park and Williamsburg sections of Brooklyn. Most illness has occurred among young children (ages 1-5). Shigella germs are found in the intestinal tract. The disease is most commonly spread by direct contact with an infected person. The Shigella germ can spread quickly among young children in day care programs or pre-kindergarten programs. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramping and bloody diarrhea.
Large outbreaks of shigella have previously occurred in traditionally observant Jewish communities in Boro Park and Williamsburg as well as other parts of New York State, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland and Canada. One such outbreak affected over 1900 persons and lasted for eight months.
- The most important way to prevent this disease is good hand washing with both soap and warm water. This is especially important after going to the bathroom. Before performing Asher Yatsar, children should wash with soap and warm water. Hands should be also washed on arrival at day care or school, before eating or whenever hands look, feel, or smell unclean. For parents, handwashing after diaper changing is also very important. Developing the habit of good handwashing will prevent not just Shigella but many other diseases that spread person-to-person, some of which may be serious.
- If your child develops diarrhea, he/she should not be sent to day care or school until the diarrhea has completely resolved. Because transmission is person to person, we want to be sure that other children as well as teachers do not get sick from this germ. One way to make sure that your child no longer has the germ is to test the stool. The DOHMH asks that ill children have at least two negative stool tests to be sure that the child is no longer carrying the Shigella germ. While we understand it can be a hardship, this is a requirement in all New York City daycares and is to protect other children in the daycare and the community. You can have the stool tested either at your regular doctor or through the DOHMH.
- Since the Shigella bacteria has become resistant to two commonly-used antibiotics, we are not recommending that all infections be treated. Mild illness will usually resolve on its own without antibiotics. More severe infections need to be evaluated by your physician.
We appreciate your cooperation in helping to control this outbreak and ensuring continued good health for your family and your community.
Marcelle Layton, M.D.
Marcelle Layton, M.D., Assistant Commissioner
Bureau of Communicable Disease
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Just imagine this: An obviously significant amount of children are suffering from diarrhea and other diseases just because some fanatics never updated their hygiene standards. Some kids even receive antibiotics they don't need. Imagine also all the other diseases like flues and colds that are transmitted among adults just because of the lack of hygiene.
Perhaps Jews were more hygienic in the Middle Ages than our non-Jews neighbors and this saved many lives. But we already know about bacteria since the 17th century when Antony van Leeuwenhoek discovered them, and we know at least for a century already that washing our hands with soap will reduce bacterial infections.
So much for 'Abi Gezunt'!