Friday, October 30, 2009

Swine flu spread by spitting, health agency warns

The Health Protection Agency in Britain has warned footballers to stop their "disgusting" habit of spitting as it could lead to the spread of the A/H1N1 virus. A spokesman for the UK's Health Protection Agency was quoted as saying, "Spitting is disgusting at all times. It's unhygienic and unhealthy, particularly if you spit close to other people."

"Footballers, like the rest of us, wouldn't spit indoors so they shouldn't do it on the football pitch. If they are spitting near other people it could certainly increase the risk of passing on infections," the spokesman said, ''It's about setting examples for young people who idolize them."

The warning comes after several football teams were struck by the A/H1N1 virus commonly known as swine flu. The English Premier League football clubs Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers and French team Paris St. Germain were amongst the those affected.

The French football league sparked controversy last Sunday when it decided to postpone a match between PSG and Marseille because PSG players Ludovic Giuly and Mamadou Sakho and two members of the coaching team were diagnosed with the A/H1N1 virus on Saturday. But the French football league's president defended the action. "What would people have said if the match had gone ahead and the Marseille team had caught the virus? The medical commission gives us their professional opinion. We have to follow it as much as we can," said Frederic Thiriez.

Although widely reported the Health Protection Agency later tried to play down the spokesman's comments, saying he had been "misinterpreted." A spokeswoman later said that spitting was not a major cause of spreading swine flu infections. "Our general advice is that people who have swine flu should stay at home," Louise Brown said, "For people with flu, it is essential that they wash their hands if they have coughed or sneezed onto them in order to destroy the virus and help to stop infecting other people."

However other sporting associations have also advised players to refrain from spitting. Oshawa Minor Hockey president Bob Crystal says his organization has circulated an advisory from Hockey Canada, and one of their own along with an article from talk show host Dr. Oz, to help educate players, families and coaches on what they can be doing to prevent the spread of H1N1.

"(The advisories) have been all about the hand-washing and water bottles and stuff, things we already had in place," said Crystal. But an additional precaution has been added to the list by Oshawa Minor regards players and coaches spitting on the ice or on the bench. "The one thing that nobody seems to be mentioning, and it's pretty prevalent in hockey, is spitting," the president said. "We've asked our players and coaches and everybody else to focus on getting rid of the spitting. You watch the NHL and when (the cameras) zoom in on the bench the first thing a guys does is hock a loogie. So we talked to the health department and they told us it was one of the fastest ways to spread it because it is in your saliva. We've asked them to focus on that." Players have also been instructed not to share water bottles and to leave their gloves on during pre- or post-game handshakes.

Campaigns against public spitting and the disposal of sputum in households started in Britain and the U.S in the 1880s, driven by concerns about tuberculosis. Atypical pneumonia may also be spread through spitting. By the early 1700s, spitting had become seen as something which should be concealed in the West, and by 1859 many viewed the spitting on the floor or street as vulgar, especially in mixed company. Spittoons were used openly during the nineteenth century to provide an acceptable outlet for spitters. Spittoons became far less common after the influenza epidemic of 1918, and their use has since virtually disappeared, though each justice of the Supreme Court of the United States continues to be provided with a personal cuspidor.

In China and many other parts of Asia, spitting is very common. Chinese men in particular have the habit of making loud hawking sounds before spitting. People may even be seen to spit on the bus, and onto the floors of restaurants and public toilets. Handkerchiefs or tissues are not commonly used and people are often seen using their thumb and forefinger to press their nose on one side while blowing the contents from the other nostril onto the street.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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