Saturday, September 2, 2017

Biology, history surround ‘foot etiquette’ and hookworms

After reading letters  like Kriss Sands’ on being barred from the Mountain State Fair for going barefoot [“Why I Won’t Be Attending Mountain State Fair This year,” Sept. 10, Xpress] and also seeing people disregarding the “No Shoes, No Service” public health codes in Asheville stores and restaurants, I feel people need a little biology and history lesson on the very good reasoning behind such laws and “foot etiquette.” Let’s start with one word: hookworm.
Hookworm larvae and other intestinal parasites burrow through soles of unshodden feet from contaminated soil. Once in a person, the individual can spread it through their saliva  and excrement (aided through hand to hand transactions, etc.). Hookworm and intestinal  parasites can cause low immune system and malnourishment and even lead to death (as it often does in many poor countries today where shoes are a luxury).
We were once a much poorer nation, too (think the Great Depression). Many people, especially children, didn’t have shoes. Yes, stomach parasites, illness and death were a problem in the U.S. then, and so, you guessed it, we passed and encouraged health ordinances so people did not contract and spread worms in public places (like a “state fair,”  let’s say). We have far less infection today due to ordinances like this, but worms still surely exist in the U.S.
Kriss Sands may or may not have worms, but chances of contracting them are far greater going around barefoot in public, and in turn we all would have greater chances of contracting and spreading them if we all chose this “lifestyle.”
This sort of “pro-barefoot” rant would be Portlandia laughable if it wasn’t so ignorant of facts and dismissive of the health of others. If Kriss does now have a few spare pairs of shoes lying around, there are currently people in a long list of countries that would be too happy to have them.
Chalk this one up to “USA — We’ve come so far we’re regressing.”
G.J. Cage
Asheville