Basic measures to maintain hygiene, such as not spitting in public places, need to be implemented stringently to meet the Centre’s target to eliminate tuberculosis by 2025, say experts. The list of diseases that can be caused by spitting includes TB, H1NI and other respiratory infections.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), TB and H1N1 are among the top causes of deaths world-wide and the spit of a TB patient, if not disposed of properly, can effect 10-12 healthy people in a year. In 2017, 10.4 million people fell ill with TB, as per data from WHO, while H1N1, or swine flu, killed over five lakh people globally, according to the Centre for Disease Control, Atlanta.
In 2017, there were 27.4 lakh TB cases in the country, and that’s why stern measures need to be taken against spitting in public places, said Dr Tushar Sahasrabuddhe, head of the department of chest medicine at D Y Patil Medical College.
Sahasrabuddhe, who has stepped up awareness programmes against TB, has also challenged the widely-held belief that sunlight kills TB bacteria within 15-20 minutes of exposure.
“We conducted a study to evaluate the duration of viability of TB bacteria in the sputum of pulmonary TB cases under various environmental conditions. We proved that when the sputum TB positive samples were exposed to direct sunlight, the bacteria was still alive after 24 hours in 76 per cent of the cases, and after 48 hours in 34 per cent of the cases. In samples, which were mixed with tobacco and kept in the dark, the TB bacteria were alive after seven days,” said Dr Sahasrabuddhe.
He said there was an urgent need to contain the transmission of TB bacteria and prevent its spread.
Over two months ago, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) launched an intensive drive against spitting in public, and fined over 1,000 persons. In a unique step, civic officials also made the offenders clean up the area. However, as the PMC has shifted its focus to the Swachh survey undertaken by the central government, the drive has lost some of its momentum. In the last 18 days, action has been taken against only 149 persons.
“The action, of getting the spit cleaned up by the offenders themselves, created a lot of impact on local residents. This was in addition to the penalty, and was meant to teach a lesson to the offenders,” said Dnyaneshwar Molak, joint municipal commissioner and in-charge of PMC’s Solid Waste Management Department.
Molak said as civic staff were busy in ongoing work for the Swachh contest, the anti-spitting drive had slowed down, but the PMC would give another push to the initiative, to discourage the unhygienic habit.
Emphasising on the need for proper habits to curtail the spread of TB, Vaishali Jadhav, assistant medical officer and in-charge of the National TB programme in the city, said, “There is a need for creating awareness about the reasons behind the spread of TB. The only way we can control it is by inculcating proper habits in local residents”.
Jadhav said spitting in public places was a cause of concern, as the infection can spread through air. “The drive against spitting was a welcome step… and it should continue till local residents give up the bad habit,” she said.