In mid-March my wife and I flew back into Vancouver International Airport after being in Argentina for a few weeks. The two stops in the US on the way home were highlighted by the long waits created by the Bush administration’s orange alert security status and a requirement that we decontaminate all our shoes. This was a bit of an undertaking because we had a special bag just for activity footwear that included riding boots, hiking boots, Tevas, running shoes, and street shoes. I guess the North American security paranoia presently covers every possible size of invader, but I was intrigued when first-contact officials in both countries questioned if we had been on a farm or around penguins at any time in the past 3 weeks. The answer to both questions was yes, as we had been horseback riding for a week in Patagonia as well as visiting a penguin rookery in Tierra del Fuego all within that time. I felt a little like Typhoid Mary as I handed over an armload of shoes and boots—including the shoes I was wearing—while enduring the disapproving stares of a large assemblage of US Customs and Agriculture officials (all wearing side arms). After our potential fomites were satisfactorily decontaminated we were cleared, but it seemed somewhat reluctantly by the cadre of homeland security specialists, as I think we were the only passengers keeping this group busy. I felt a little bad that we weren’t able to brighten their day with the prospect of lengthy interrogations and body cavity searches.
We had been in very isolated regions in central and southern Patagonia, where the only mode of transportation was by horseback. The estancia where we spent the most time was about 50 000 acres and raised sheep, cattle, and some pigs. We were on horseback 8 to 10 hours per day, usually with some riding at night as well, so we covered an enormous amount of country, and if there were any bad bugs on the ground we certainly could have come in contact with them. I helped the gauchos castrate pigs as well, and in the process became intimately connected with the worst of Pampas soils, so once again my potential for contact was quite high. I have been trying to inventory the types of bugs that I could have brought back with me and the list includes the likes of coccidiodomycosis, anthrax, plague, tuberculosis, and brucellosis. (I’m sure the list is longer but it would be boring to pursue it further.) My original training as a microbiologist has goaded me into a renewed appreciation for the US decontamination process.
The burning microbiological question that remains, however, is why did they want to know if I had been around penguins? What do penguins have that I could bring back to North America that would potentially be hazardous to man or beast? If anyone has the answer I would really appreciate a heads-up.
Finally, I have just completed my 37th bath since returning to Canada 3 days ago and I am starting to feel a little less hazardous.
Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee
of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally
accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.
About the ICMJE and citation styles
The ICMJE is small group of editors of general medical journals who first met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), were first published in 1979. The Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which meets annually. The ICMJE created the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals to help authors and editors create and distribute accurate, clear, easily accessible reports of biomedical studies.
An alternate version of ICMJE style is to additionally list the month an issue number, but since most journals use continuous pagination, the shorter form provides sufficient information to locate the reference. The NLM now lists all authors.
BCMJ standard citation style is a slight modification of the ICMJE/NLM style, as follows:
- Only the first three authors are listed, followed by "et al."
- There is no period after the journal name.
- Page numbers are not abbreviated.
For more information on the ICMJE Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, visit www.icmje.org