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Could You Really Send Chicken Pox Through the Mail on a Lollipop?

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In the last few weeks, media outlets have reported on parents using Facebook and other social networking sites to trade lollipops and other items infected by children who have chicken pox. These parents are trying to expose their healthy children to these items to build their immunity without having the children vaccinated.

Let's ignore, for a moment, the fact that sending viruses and diseases either through the U.S. mail or via private carriers is illegal, that the only difference between this and bioterrorism is intent, and that U.S. Attorneys are investigating people connected to these lollipop operations.

Let's ignore the fact that giving a child a virus instead of an immunization not only puts that child at risk, but also other children they come in contact with, including those who may have compromised immune systems or may not have been able to receive the vaccine.

Let's ignore the fact that chicken pox is a herpes virus that can re-emerge as shingles, and that vaccinated children have a lower risk of shingles than kids who naturally contract chicken pox.

Let us suspend disbelief, stretch the imagination, and pretend that this isn't crazy for all those reasons.

Let's step back and ask the one question that’s really been eating away at us: Will this even work?

Probably not.

A lollipop is, according to experts, a terrible candidate for an infection vehicle. The varicella virus, which causes chicken pox, “is spread by airborne droplets, not saliva contact,” says Jeff Dimond, from the Centers for Disease Control. Someone sick needs to sneeze or cough or just breath on you, and you need to inhale the virus to give it a good chance at infection.

Even if the virus wasn’t transmitted by a respiratory route, it likely wouldn’t have a long enough shelf life in a loogie or on a used lollipop for it to survive in the mail and do any damage. Dimond says that the virus’ lifespan depends heavily on its conditions and environment, but “whether [mailing it] would work or not is very suspect.”

“If there's a very high load on the virus and shipped very quickly, it's theoretically possible,” Vanderbilt Children's Hospital’s Isaac Thomsen told the Associated Press, but that seems like putting an awful lot of faith in the United States Postal Service.

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travel
Why You Should Never Take Your Shoes Off On an Airplane
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What should be worn during takeoff?

Tony Luna:

If you are a frequent flyer, you may often notice that some passengers like to kick off their shoes the moment they've settled down into their seats.

As an ex-flight attendant, I'm here to tell you that it is a dangerous thing to do. Why?

Besides stinking up the whole cabin, footwear is essential during an airplane emergency, even though it is not part of the flight safety information.

During an emergency, all sorts of debris and unpleasant ground surfaces will block your way toward the exit, as well as outside the aircraft. If your feet aren't properly covered, you'll have a hard time making your way to safety.

Imagine destroying your bare feet as you run down the aisle covered with broken glass, fires, and metal shards. Kind of like John McClane in Die Hard, but worse. Ouch!

Bruce Willis stars in 'Die Hard' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

A mere couple of seconds delay during an emergency evacuation can be a matter of life and death, especially in an enclosed environment. Not to mention the entire aircraft will likely be engulfed in panic and chaos.

So, the next time you go on a plane trip, please keep your shoes on during takeoff, even if it is uncomfortable.

You can slip on a pair of bathroom slippers if you really need to let your toes breathe. They're pretty useless in a real emergency evacuation, but at least they're better than going barefoot.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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