Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Most Obvious Information You'll Read All Day

News is good. We like news. We don't like news that is not news. Is Lindsay Lohan always news? Always? No. Is Lindsay Lohan without a shirt on making out with a chick who is much hotter than Samantha Ronson always news? Yeah, pretty much. (Hey! In order to make this particular analogy work, I needed someone hotter than Sam! What's wrong with that? It's two chicks hypothetically making out! I don't think it's time for complaining!) But where I get stuck is when the obvious (aka the 'not news') makes its way into the news stream or is presented as news.

Case in point (also known as 'that which irritated me today') would be an article in the
New York Times bearing the title "In Some Swimming Pools, a Nasty Intestinal Parasite". And they're not referring to that one neighbor kid down the street, either. It goes on to talk about how "Reports of gastrointestinal illness from use of public pools and water parks have risen sharply in recent years" because of a"...microscopic organism that lives in human feces" which spread illnesses "...when people ingest contaminated water." Ewww.

It's something called cryptosporidium. (Things that live in places like the human rectum usually have names like that. There's always an -ium or an -ius at the end.) The reason it can live in chlorinated water is because it's a smart little thing that has a little egglike shell on the outside of it which allows it to hang out for as long as 10 days in the water. It's as if Superman were not vulnerable to kryptonite (and if he lived in poo). In 2007 there were 31 recreational water outbreaks (ie, public swimming pools) which involved 3,726 unfortunate individuals. In 2004 there were 7 outbreaks with 567 people involved. They don't know if there's more of the poo-bug in the pools or if the increase is just because we've turned into a panic ridden society and there is more reporting of the incidents. (Oh, I'm paraphrasing there just a little bit.)

So let's just use our collective noggins to noodle through this here. The crypto butt bug lives in feces. Illnesses are spread when people ingest water the the crypto butt bug has been swimming in. Thus, the crypto butt bug has to find its way into the water. (We are assuming that the water is intended to be free of any and all forms of feces. You know. Because people are swimming in it!) This can be avoided by not having poo in the pool. Solved! Our work is done here! Who's up for a drink!

Not so fast. In the article, a one Michele C. Hlavsa of the CDC tells us "People should not swim or allow their children to swim when they have diarrhea." ::: blink ::: ::: blink ::: And newspapers wonder why their revenue is dropping. I was reading this online, but had I picked up my morning paper from the very end of the driveway (because for some reason, newspaper delivery folks have de-volved to where their arm cannot fling a paper more than a foot and a half from the curb) and read that helpful hint I'd be asking a few questions. Let me get this straight. I am paying for this subscription. Therefore, by including content such as "Don't go in a pool when your bowel control is questionable or non-existent" the publisher of said newspaper is assuming that I WANT that sort of information, that I must have ASKED for that sort of information as implied by my subscription to their lovely periodical. Not only is it assumed that I wanted and asked for that information, it is also implied that I wanted it SO badly that I was willing to PAY FOR IT!! Newsflash: I DON'T! I DIDN'T! AND I'M NOT!

Seriously? That's the best you've got for me? Who is that for? I don't think that information is for folks for read the New York Freaking Times! At least I certainly hope it isn't.

Oh, but as if that isn't bad enough, as I continued reading I realized how much they had hyped up this 'story' to make it appear worse than it is. We read about the increase in outbreaks and in people affected to be a difference of 3,159 more people in 2007 than in 2004. One has to wonder if there is anyone out there who is NOT swimming in poo! But later on they quote a one Utah epidemiologist Robert T. Rolfs who says that "One of the largest recent crypto outbreaks occurred in Utah in 2007. There were 2,000 confirmed cases". Wait. What? ONE of those outbreaks has 2,000 people affected? So, excluding that there were only 1,726 people affected by 30 instances? Well, that averages out to 57 people per incident, while in 2005 the average was 81 people per incident. So really, the average number of people affected by each instance of this has decreased. There are several reasons that could be speculated about as to why this is and some of them might even be relevant. Then again, some may not, as Dr. Rolfs noted that the aforementioned large outbreak was eventually slowed by "...temporarily barring all children 5 and younger from pools" and that the outbreak subsided "...after the swimming season."

Really?! AFTER swimming season, when there were no people in the public swimming pool that was affected, that is when the outbreak subsided? REALLY?! Shocking! Aren't the methods of modern science grand?! Ah, yes, it's a great time to be alive. Please kill me.

Once again my beloved statistics were brutally misused and assaulted by some gung-ho reporter (probably should be dung-ho for this story) who seemed intent on terrorizing the public by insinuating that feces in public swimming pools is on the rise (literally in most instances) and we should all be concerned about it! Oh, pipe down. (Believe me when I say that yes, feces in swimming pools IS a concern and SHOULD be a concern of all. Is it a NEW concern? Good Lord, I hope not.)

Did you notice how I just sort of breezed over the other insultingly obvious point in this non-news story? The part about ingesting water that's contaminated with the crypto butt bug is what makes you sick, so don't do that? Really? So, just so I understand, because it's a difficult concept to grasp, DON'T drink water that has feces in it? Because if I'm really thirsty, I'll just head right on over to the local swimming pool and just dunk my head right in the water and start gulping away. So, don't do that? I better write that down. Where's my pen?

It's like I'm reading an edition of the Helmeted Folks Times or something. Another 'need to know' tidbit they share with us is "never use the pool as a toilet." Again, GOOD TO KNOW! But then, for some reason that is completely unfathomable to me, they tell us "Children in diapers require vigilant attention."

::: blink ::: ::: blink ::: Why, yes. Children in diapers DO require vigilant attention. Yes, they do. ALL THE TIME! Not JUST at the freaking pool! But hey, if your kid is in diapers, should they be in the pool at all? Well, I guess, if you're going by the implication of that sentence and the prior golden advice of "don't swim with diarrhea", that seems to imply that it's FINE! Just be VIGILANT! After all, they might be in diapers, but do they have diarrhea? If not, then just be VIGILANT! It's a wonder there were ONLY 31 instances of this happening in 2007.

Other ways you can "protect yourself"? (Avoid people that write articles such at the one in the NY Times, for starters.) "Water in pools should not be cloudy, tiles should not be slick and filtration machines should hum in the background." Got that? So if you can't see the bottom of the pool and you're slipping on tiles covered in fecal matter, don't swim there. I know! I know! It sounds crazy! But after all, this was in the New York Times. They must know what they're talking about.

And so do I. That's why I'm pretty sure we're doomed. DOOOOOMMMMED! Happy swimming.

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