NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans area doctors say they often see more patients right after Mardi Gras. They do not know if their patients just waited until after the parades ended to seek treatment or if they got sick at the parades.
Illness after Carnival has never been studied. LSU Health Infectious Diseases Dr. Fred Lopez says germs could come flying with all the beads.
"Depends a little bit on who threw the beads, depends on who you're tussling with for the bead," Lopez said. "But if there's any direct exchange of viruses from the surface of the beads, from a hand to a hand as one hands a bead to another person and the person is infected, the person infects the bead with the virus that can then be touched and moved to the eyes to the mouth to the nose. You can see how there would be a vehicle for transmission."
Lopez said the long hours, drinking, and exhaustion that often accompany Carnival can take a toll on the immune system.
Dr. Brobson Lutz of the Orleans Parish Medical Society counters that getting out of the house and moving around at the parades can be very good for people.
"I think being outside is good, I think it's healthy and I think you're a lot less likely to set up pods of transmission of respiratory infections being outside hollering at parades than being inside say at a Christmas party," Lutz said.
People are often packed tight on the parade routes. According to the CDC, viruses including the flu and measles can be passed from person to person six feet away. Lopez says it is important to practice "respiratory etiquette" if you are sick at a parade, or anywhere. He says make sure you wash your hands often and well.
"Make sure that if you're sneezing and coughing, that you do so into your clothes so that those particles that move three feet or six feet don't have the possibility of infecting those who are not immune," Lopez said.