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by Socorristas/Street Medics Friday, Sep. 19, 2003 at 10:49 PM

Many folks travelled from around the world to Cancun to protest the WTO. Many of those same people will be returning home tired, energized, impassioned and with RED EYES, from a virus that causes pink eye, or conjunctivitis. Read here for information on treatment, as well as how to prevent spread to others.

In Cancun a fabulous team of street medics treated activists with head injuries from cop batons, bad cuts from tearing down the fence blocking protestors from the convention center, dehydration from the hot and humid weather, and PINK EYE (conjunctivitis).

There is a pink eye epidemic in the Cancun area, and folks traveling there for the demonstrations were not spared.

The illness spreads very easily by simple contact – from anyone touching the face/eye of someone with the illness, or the sick person touching their eye or face, to touching something else (door handle, light switch, beer bottle or whatever else). Then another person touches the same thing, then touches their face and tada! a nasty, debilitating illness that can put you out of commission for days.

To prevent spreading the dreaded pink eye, people with the illness (see below for symptoms) can try not to touch their face at all, and wash their hands very frequently.

The symptoms are as follows: red red painful and gritty eyes with lots of tearing and yellow/green mucus, swelling around the eyes, sometimes to the point where the eyes are swollen shut, blurred vision, pain with moving eyes, a headache. Sometimes the illness becomes more generalized, with fevers, muscle and bone aches and feeling generally


The symptoms seem to last 2 - 7 days. Treatment focuses mostly on decreasing symptoms. Some herbs, such as chickweed and chamomile, can be used as compresses to decrease swelling and pain. To prepare a compress, pour boiling water over the herb and let steep for 15 minutes

(do not put herb directly in boiling water). Let the liquid cool to lukewarm or cooler, strain, and put on a clean cloth or gauze and place on your eyes for 5 - 15 minutes. Repeat as necessary. You can also use black tea bags as compresses. Just wet and place on the eyes. Sometimes cool compresses feel better than warm. During and after treatment the cloth and your hands probably pick up lots of virus, so wash your hands well afterwards and discard or wash the cloth. For other herbal remedies, as well as homeopathics, talk with a health care practitioner. If you have any allergies or other health problems, consider seeing a health care provider before using any of the treatments above.

According to public health authorities in Cancun, this conjunctivitis is caused by a virus, so antibiotic drops (which kill bacteria) will not help. However, some people who used antibiotic drops in Cancun think that it helped them recover more quickly.

We do not know whether the virus causing this particular epidemic of conjunctivitis can survive in non-tropical climates, so precautions against spread may not be so important. However, the illness can be pretty severe and the precautions are relatively simple to implement.

On another note, many of the folks returning from Cancun can use lots of emotional support, since for many it was an intense experience. For more info on emotional support specifically geared to activists, see and

For info on basic health issues for future demos, see or On the bostoncoop site we will soon post "Stay Healthy So You Can Stay in the Streets" in both English and Spanish.

And hey -- we can always use more folks interested in the medic side of protests, especially with the massive FTAA protests coming up. There are trainings scheduled in many US cities in the next few months. See or for more general information about street medics/socorristas.

la lucha sigue,

eo for socorristas/street medics

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