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Spitting Can Spread Virus

Times of India
05 September 2009
By Samarpita Banerjee & Shambhavi Anand
Pune, India

Thoughtless Act Thoughtless Act
Spitting can spread virus
The unhygienic habit of spitting, a widespread practice in our country, is more than just a display of atrocious manners. The act, experts say, is one of the easiest ways of transmitting the H1N1 virus and a host of other contagions.

Experts contend that the phlegm of a disease–carrier can spread air–borne respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), pneumonia and influenza (including swine flu) and even lead to a TB epidemic if the habit remains unchecked. Since the doctors claim that the virus can stay alive in the saliva for more than eight hours, it can easily help in transmitting the diseases.

Dilip Sarda, president of the Indian Medical Association, Pune chapter, agreed that spitting was one of the easiest ways by which the dreaded H1N1 virus could be transferred. “Spitting is a habit which is not just limited to uneducated people. People need to realise that this habit can help in spreading the disease very easily and very fast. With the ongoing festivals, people crowd streets and spitting in public places could have serious consequences,” he warned.

Agreeing to this, Anil Bhandwalkar, president of the General Practitioners’ Association, said, “Not just H1N1 flu, spitting can help spread any respiratory disease. And if the weather conditions are suitable, the virus can stay alive for about six to eight hours. Even if the likelihood of others coming in contact with the phlegm is much less in comparison with sneezing and coughing, the possibility of contraction cannot be ruled out.”

Elaborating on how this habit could help spread contagions, Sanjay Pujari, director of the Institute of Infectious Diseases, said, “While spitting, one brings the sputum out of the oral cavity. This might also bring out some viruses which can spread diseases.”

“Coughing, talking, sneezing and singing are also easy ways of respiratory transmission. While doing these, one releases droplets of infection directly from the respiratory tract. This is where the virus resides. But while spitting, sputum comes out of the oral cavity. This might also bring out the virus and is definitely an unhyeginic practise,” he added.

“There has been no study to prove this but it is possible that the infection might get transmitted through spitting,” he further said.

Doctors also feel that there should be more awareness drives in slums where people do not know much about hygiene. “Apart from telling them about how the disease can be avoided, stress should be given on hygiene. People should be made aware that spitting can transfer the disease and this should be strictly avoided,” Bhandwalkar said.

It may be noted that spitting is a punishable offence under section 116 of the Bombay Police Act, 1951. As per the Act, the offence is liable to attract a penalty of up to Rs 1,200.

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