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The McCarrison Society has been urging – through these pages – action to be taken regarding personal habits of the general public regarding coughing, sneezing and spitting. ‘Coughs and Sneezes spread diseases’ was the old adage put out by medical authorities before, during and after WW11.

Another was a prominent notice saying:

NO SPITTING – NO HAWKING!

It came as a relief recently to see the following NHS notice on an underground train in London:

CATCH IT
Germs spread easily. Always carry tissues and use them to catch your coughs or sneezes.

BIN IT
Germs can live for several hours on tissues. Dispose of your tissues as soon as possible.

KILL IT
Hands can transfer germs to every surface you touch. Clean your hands as soon as you can!

With TB on the increase again, and the highly contagious norovirus seemingly widespread around the country, not to mention colds and influenza, we can only say HOORAY!

Noroviruses are the most important cause of all non-bacterial outbreaks of gastroenteritis ("stomach flu"; diarrhea and vomiting) around the world1 and are also associated with 30-50% of all foodborne outbreaks of gastroenteritis in the US. Norovirus affects people of all ages. They are often transmitted by faecally contaminated food or water and are, therefore, subject to control by public health measures. Immunity to the virus is not complete or long-lasting. Outbreaks of norovirus disease often occur in closed or semi-closed communities, such as long-term care facilities, hospitals, prisons and cruise ships where once the virus has been introduced, can spread very rapidly by either person-to-person transmission or through contaminated food. Norovirus is rapidly inactivated by chlorine-based disinfectants, but because the virus particle does not have a lipid envelope (as does influenza virus), it is less susceptible to alcohols and detergents.

It’s disappointing the NHS failed to mention spitting. It’s noteworthy that the All England Tennis Club committee have managed to persuade competitors not to spit on court: something no other sport has managed.

1Logan C & O’Sullivan N (2008) Detection of viral agents of gastroenteritis: Norovirus, Sapovirus and Astrovirus. Future Virology 3 (1): 61-70.
Kirkwood C (2004) Viral gastroenteritis in Europe: a new norovirus variant? The Lancet 363 (9410): 671-672.

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