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Pop Culture Debate: What's Grosser, the 'Jersey Shore' Jacuzzi or 'Honey Boo Boo' Mud Pit?

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Oct 16, 2012 | 3:06pm EDT

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Tonight is the second of the 2012 Presidential Debates between President Barack Obama and the Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney. The country will watch on — and learn things — as the two share their platforms during the town hall face-off. While Obama and Romney answer important questions from audience members about the economy, health care, reproductive rights, foreign policy, and the state of the economy, we at Hollywood.com are staging debates of our own. Today, we decided to argue pop culture heath care. Specifically, what is more likely to get you sick: jumping in the mud with Honey Boo Boo, or swimming in the Jersey Shore hot tub? Writers Brian Moylan and Shaunna Murphy square off on this vital issue.

Opening Argument from Shaunna Murphy:

Hollywood.com readers, you may not know this, but there is a rare genetic trait common amongst people born in New Jersey (myself included), that makes us totally lose our s**t whenever we are in close proximity to a hot tub. We pack bathing suits wherever we're going, even in the dead of winter, "just in case." When we go to Vegas, we shell out extra cash to ensure that our suite includes a 'cuzzi, because every drunken evening must end in a nice, hot soak in a disease-ridden cesspool. You only live once! It's science.

However, ever since Jersey Shore premiered in 2010, even I have become wary of my hot tub usage. Why? Because watching MVP's nightly conquests drunkenly saunter into their rooftop Thermo Spa (not to mention Snooki and Sitch's infamous drunken hookup in said Thermo Spa) finally made me realize that getting in hot water with shady people, under the influence, is a bad idea. "People don't realize it, but a hot tub can be a breeding ground for infections ranging from skin issues to STDs," says New York internist Holly Phillips. Gross! Let's go on.

Hot tubs need to be heavily chlorinated, because a lapse in proper maintenance will allow bacteria to grow — with or without heavily tanned guidos. Bacteria grow like wildfire in warm water, leading to a common 'cuzzi side effect known as pseudomonas folliculitis, a skin infection that produces itchy, bright red bumps. It'll clear up on its own in 10 days or less, but you'll look like this for awhile.

Then there's Toxic Shock Syndrome, the potentially fatal illness that none other than Deena "You like da boobz?" Cortese thought she had last week. Thankfully our second favorite meatball is okay, but the bacteria that causes TSS can be present in hot tubs — if you get in with a friend carrying the bacteria, better be sure you don't have any paper cuts. It's that easy. So if Deena carried the bacteria and I was to get in with her, my clumsy ass would be in major trouble. Like, Snooki wearing no panties in public in front of Jionni trouble.

Finally, there's the issue of genital herpes — a disease roughly one in six people (there are seven in the Jersey Shore house, not to mention the many strangers they bring home) between the age of 14 to 49 carries. According to New York City dermatologist Dr. Albert Lefkovits, if someone with herpes recently sat on the edge of a tub and you were to take their place, you could contract the virus, even through a bathing suit. The virus loves to live in warm, damp areas, which sounds exactly like a jacuzzi!

There are so many other issues that can abound when you combine alcohol, guidos, and warm water (like heat stroke, or passing out and getting your hair caught in a filter), but we can start here for now. I'd rather roll around in the mud any day than get in hot water with these folks.

Opening Argument by Brian Moylan:

I'm just going to start this off and say that, while they may be poor (for now) and may live in a house that is not like yours and may eat things that you think will make your stomach dance right out of your body and then die in a heaving mass on the floor, that does not mean that the Thompson clan on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is dirty. They are not. Neck crust never gave anyone a disease.

That said, mud certainly has. Do you know what you can get from the mud? That flesh eating bacteria that you hear about so often on the news. Yeah, you thought you could just go splashedy splash in the muck and the mire and wash it off. No. Not unless you also want to wash off your face. Know what else you can get from mud? Meliodosis. Know what that does to you? It gives you joint and chest pain, a fever, flu-like symptoms, and a bunch of other things that will drive you right to WebMD. Well maybe not right to it, because it can live in your body for 62 years before preventing any symptoms. Yup, Honey Boo Boo could be diagnosed with this in the ear 2076. It is also fatal. And we're not going to even get into the brain-eating bacteria that hangs out in lakes and mud. Because if we did, you'd never touch dirt again.

This all sounds awful, and the thing about hot tubs is, nearly all of them have chlorine in them, which prevents the spread of disease. But just like health class in Catholic high school taught us, the only way not to get a disease is by abstinence. The Jersey Shore kids seem to have learned this as well. There has not been one romantic encounter in the hot tub in Seasons 4 or 5 and it seems to have fallen out of favor with the guidos. Considering this year every female is in a monogamous relationship, The Situation is practicing sobriety, Vinny is practicing celibacy, and DJ Paulie D is practicing his usual discretion, you aren't going to be able to catch anything in that hot tub other than fish.

  Rebuttal from Shaunna Murphy:

Ick, you're right, Brian. That brain-eating amoeba thing, that the article claims is found in "warm lakes, streams, and hot springs" sounds pretty nasty. However, the article also mentions that millions are exposed to these amoeba every year, with only one to eight people actually dying from it. "The illness itself is devastating, but the fact is that this is a very rare infection," said infectious disease expert Dr. Roy Gulick. "It's not a new infection, we've known about this for decades, and there's no evidence that the number is increasing. If you compare it to the odds of having a traffic accident on your way to the lake or drowning in the lake, this is much smaller."

Phew! Thank goodness. And as for that horrible, flesh-eating bacteria that is currently devastating poor Aimee Copeland — well, that one's rare too, and could have been treated early on with some antibiotics. Amy Horneman, who is chief of microbiology and molecular diagnostics at the Baltimore Medical Center of the Veterans Affairs Maryland Health Care System, and an internationally recognized specialist on Aeromonas hydrophila, says infections caused by the bacterium are relatively easy to treat with common antibiotics, if you take care of them in time. Basically, it's this simple: Get a cut in dirty water, go to the doctor.

As for hot tubs, you're also right — chlorine can erase a lot of problems, excluding heat exhaustion, and hair getting sucked into filters, drowning people. (There have been about 49 cases over the last decade or so, and drunkenness certainly ups your chances.) But the problem is, people are often lazy about chlorinating their hot tubs, and the herpes on the side of the ledge will still be there either way. In fact, even the folks at Playboy are notoriously lax about cleaning their hot tub — in February of 2011, 123 people came down with Legionnaires' disease, a potentially fatal illness, after getting in the Playboy Mansion hot tub during a fundraiser. You're right that, every now and then, an unlucky soul is in the wrong mud with the wrong cut, and gets some nasty bacterial disease — but hot tubs filled with dirty people are proven cesspools. And even though the cameras haven't spent as much time in the tub so far this season, I wouldn't take my chances on the ledge of that thing, given the insane number of sexual partners the male cast has had during past seasons. Come on, you know at least one of them has herpes. It doesn't. Go. Away.

Rebuttal from Brian Moylan:

Shaunna, I see a lot of things that can happen to you as a result of being in a hot tub. However, I'm not seeing many concrete examples of what will actually happen in that hot tub. Just last year, three children in Louisiana, which is near Honey Boo Boo's home in Georgia, were hospitalized for contracting E. coli while playing in a mud pit, much like the one on the show. Luckily they all survived (though each probably suffered a severe case of "mud butt" for at least a few days), but E. coli can be fatal. In 2011, there was also an outbreak of meliodosis in Australia where two people contacted a disease.

Yes, it's grody to think that you could catch herpes, a rash, or something even worse for taking a dip with the kids from Jersey Shore, but there are actual documented cases where mud has gotten people very ill — so ill that they had to be hospitalized and so ill that they could actually die. And like you said yourself, flinging the mud at each other like so many monkeys in a poo pile isn't nearly as fun as getting in the hot tub. With the assistance of chlorine and a well-maintained tub (do you think MTV would dare risk the lawsuits of letting the hot tub get too nasty?), I'd rather risk a good time at the shore than a messy afternoon out on the bayou. Closing Statement from Shaunna Murphy:

I don't know, Brian — maybe it's the second-generation southerner in me, but I'd take my chances on a rare case of E. coli, and a fun afternoon with the loving Boo Boo clan, over a pretty damned good chance of contracting herpes, or pseudomonas folliculitis with the shore-dwellers. I would just make sure that no livestock were around, since it's proximity to livestock fecal matter that causes these extremely rare cases of E. coli. And I agree with you that Snooki and J-Woww are a great time, but, as a lady, the notion of sitting with Sitch, Vinny, and known sociopath Pauly D in a tub, KNOWING their sexual history, would just be too much for me. I also order my meat rare, so there's that. 

Closing Statement from Brian Moylan:

I don't care what you say, but the actual diseases that you can contract from rolling around in the mud are far worse than the far-off threat of what might happen in a hot tub. And you don't need to shower after a hot tub. Plus, Snooki wouldn't give me anything but a good time, would she? I don't think so.

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