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Spitting is harmful from medical point of view

Refrain from spitting as viruses can be transmitted from phlegm, sputum and saliva. -TNP
Linette Heng

Wed, Oct 17, 2012
The New Paper

SINGAPORE - Last week, a health threat circulated on Twitter, warning people of a virus related to the common cold and Sars.

The tweet claimed a "possible suspect case at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) was being investigated for possible novel coronavirus infection".

Lab tests later confirmed that the person did not have the virus. During the Sars outbreak in 2003, the National Environment Agency (NEA) stiffened its stand against the spitting habit following concerns over public health.

The Straits Times reported that in 2003, 11 people were taken to court for spitting and fined. Most offenders get away with a composition fine, which does not require the offender to go to court.

Under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, the fine is a maximum of $1,000 for a first offence and a maximum of $2,000 for subsequent offences.

It covers anyone who spits in coffee shops, markets, eating houses and other public access areas.

Spitting is not just socially unacceptable, it could also be harmful from a medical point of view, said general practitioner Clarence Yeo from Killiney Family and Wellness Clinic.

Dr Yeo said: "Viruses can be transmitted from phlegm, sputum (mucus) and saliva." What are the chances of getting sick from walking past someone's spit on the ground?

"Some viruses can be air-borne," Dr Yeo explained. "It may be a small chance, but spit is just bad for the general hygiene of the place."

National University Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser cites ignorance, bad habits and convenience as reasons that people spit, despite many health campaigns and enforcement.

But do some people even realise that spitting is ungracious?

Dr Tan said: "Most people do, but some don't realise and some don't care."

And what would deter these people from spitting?

Dr Tan had two solutions: education and enforcement.

Sars victims

33 - Number of people who died from Sars in Singapore in 2003. 238 were infected in the same year.

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