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Serious Health Concerns, Including Norovirus, Growing At Zuccotti Park

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Will the spread of disease be the thing that closes down Zuccotti Park?

Health experts say it's fast becoming a Petri dish of germs. The cold weather, the close quarters and the lack of sanitation are combining to create a possibly serious public health danger, reports CBS 2's Marcia Kramer.

It's not only the noise from the drums or the free spirited topless dancers who perform for swarms of speechless gawkers that are creating a quality of life crisis at Zuccotti Park. Now there is concern about a potential public health menace -- disease.

You have already seen some of the protestors coughing, something they call "Zuccotti lung," but experts said that is just the beginning.

"We're starting to see respiratory problems and the flu and the cold season is now at hand in November and in addition there a few outbreaks of a Colisi virus, the so-called norovirus, the stomach flu – that's the vomiting and diarrhea virus," said Dr. Philip Tierno Jr.

Tierno, the director of clinical microbiology and immunology at NYU, said the combination of the cold weather, the cramped living conditions, poor sanitation and food open to the air and germs create fertile ground for the spread of disease.

"I think there will be a point in time when the sanitation facilities and the spread of microbial diseases reaches a level where Mayor Bloomberg will have to act," Dr. Tierno said.

On his radio show Friday the mayor offered a cryptic response about the Zuccotti Park situation.

"We are watching it. We'll do what's appropriate when appropriate," Bloomberg said.

Later, he ducked Kramer's question on whether there is a tipping point from "Occupy Wall Street."

"I think they have totally reached the tipping point. They really, really have. It's unhealthy. It's unsanitary," Battery Park resident Nina Marabetian said.

"It's a detriment to everyone that works around here," Jose Aragon added.

"I think they're overstaying their stay now," Skip Hartman said.

Although many people say the clock is ticking no one knows when the alarm will actually go off and Mayor Bloomberg will take action.

Meanwhile, John Zuccotti, the head of the company that owns the park, insisted it is up to the city to enforce the laws. But Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told Kramer it's up to Zuccotti's firm to pull the plug because they own the property.

What do you think about the conditions in Zuccotti Park? Sound off below in our comments section...

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