SRINAGAR: Bad coughing and spitting habits among residents is a big hurdle in the complete eradication of the Tuberculosis from Kashmir valley. Experts suggest a vigorous campaign to educate people about the etiquettes of coughing, sneezing and spitting, which are believed to be three stubborn reasons that don’t allow Kashmir to achieve the target of being TB free.
The cases of TB have shown a tremendous decrease following the implementation of Revised National Tuberculosis Control (RNTC) programme in 2004. “While more than 5o percent success rate has been achieved at the national level, in Kashmir the percentage is higher. Only thing that stops us from complete eradication of TB from our community is the bad coughing and spitting habits,” says State Tuberculosis officer, Dr G.M. Chulu.
Dr Chulu, who is also officer on special duty (OSD) with Directorate of Health Services said, “Spitting in open and coughing without covering the mouth is the reason that we are not able to eradicate TB from our state. People cough in open air without covering their mouth. A large number of bacteria remain suspended in air in the form of droplets and spread infection,”
Spitting in open is more harmful. Dr Chulu says, “A person can get infected with Tuberculosis bacteria if he inhales when an infected person coughs sneezes and spits in open. The bacteria enter the lungs and causes respiratory illness. Most of the viruses stay alive in the sputum for hours and sometimes for days. ”
There are no anti-spitting laws in Kashmir. People spit, cough and sneeze in pubic and nobody keeps a check. In Chest and Disease hospital there are sign boards inside and outside the hospital asking people not to spit in open. But nobody seems to be paying heed.
Dr Chulu says, “People need to be educated about coughing in open. There are not many awareness programmes held in this regard. On world Tuberculosis day, we do educate people about the disease and the habits of coughing. But educating people only for one day won’t do. There has to be a proper campaign in all the districts of Kashmir,”
“There is a law for smoking in public places. Likewise there should also be a law for open spitting. People should be taught that while coughing or sneezing, they should cover their mouth. Hands too can become a source of infection if not properly washed,” he added.
Though the overall cases of TB are showing a decline, but in places like orphanages, Madrassas, and jails, there are some patients who have been diagnosed for active TB. Reason: paucity of space.
Dr Chulu explains, “A human being needs about 10’ x10’ space for comfortable living. But in overcrowded places, there is possibility of cross infection. Also during winters, we close all ventilation points and sit in a closed room. With many people inside, there is risk of spreading of infection.”
Lack of awareness among inmates is said to be also a reason for the prevalence of disease in orphanages or jails.
Director of Health services, Kashmir Dr Samir Matto says, “Improper hygiene is definitely the cause that we are not able to eradicate TB from the state. There is need of making people aware about spitting and coughing habits.” He adds, “In Maharashtra there is an anti–spitting law and whosoever is found spiting on the road, is fined. We need to have a similar law in our state so that we can live a disease free life.”