Saturday, 23 July 2011

The Return Of Spitting And TB

How many can still remember the real fear of families and others of some of the diseases that occurred and were common before the age of antibiotics and modern pharmaceuticals transformed treatments and survival rates?

One was Tuberculosis, a killer and I can recall people who “disappeared”, suddenly taken to spend months or years in an isolation hospital without the option because of the danger they represented to the wider community.

Their families might become social pariahs, jobs might be lost and landlords turning them out of their homes.

It was why across the country there were regulations, bye-laws and an intolerance of people who spat out of either habit or provocation. It was not a matter of being “elitist” or “judgmental” or forcing standards on others. It was seen as a matter of life and death.

The Inspector Gadget blog on word press dot com tells us that today the Police service is told to ignore it. The quote below apparently from official and top down training of officers regards it as a purely social issue. The small matter of public health must give way to being nice to people.


“Spitting is a cultural issue. Young, jobless working-class men spit on the ground as a way of expressing frustration and powerlessness. It is also a way for young men from poor communities to mark territory, a kind of warning to other men in the street that they are present.

For successful men, spitting on the ground is a way of demonstrating victory against the harsh realities of modern life, a challenge to others who may wish to rob them of their success.

It is judgmental for a police officer to challenge this behaviour. It shows an ethnocentric approach; why are the cultural norms of the young jobless community less acceptable than those of their more fortunate peers?

To achieve the Public Confidence aspirations required by the National Policing Plan, police officers must begin to embed themselves in these cultures. This way, we can achieve our ultimate aim of policing our diverse communities with fairness and understanding.”


There is not just TB to consider. There are a number of other diseases which might need an avoidance of spitting and other habits. Whether the police are now urged to ignore people or drunks from relieving themselves in public places is not clear but the evidence of late night activity seems to suggest it.

Another disease is Typhoid, now mercifully rare. But in one instance I know a single case had the whole family in isolation, their business shut down for weeks and a major health emergency in the Borough concerned.

When local Councillors complained that the Chief Medical Officer was being heavy handed he told them that if the disease spread into double figures he would shut down all the workplaces and shops. He had official backing and that of the local doctors and hospitals.

When it came to diseases of this kind the old pre 1974 CMO’s could be ruthless and a Chief Constable could be given stern warnings if his officers did not pay enough attention to the health issues arising from anti-social behaviour. Imagine, a world where a Chief Constable could be put on the mat and given a good dressing down.

One of the dirty secrets of government is that not only is TB back but there are hot spots from which a rapid spread could develop. What does not help is that when TB was brought under control all the checks and routine testing were dropped. The consequence is that the numbers identified may be much less than the real figures.

Because of the nature of the disease it can be slow to develop and missed by ordinary medicine both in Family Doctor surgeries and hospitals. There are many other chest conditions that have apparently similar first symptoms and it is these that are usually assumed to be the ones causing the illness.

To add to this are the claims that there are now some strains of TB that are resistant to drugs and it could take some time to find new ones that might contain the disease. So how has it come about that our government now tells us that spitting is good and might be encouraged?

So who exactly was responsible for this? If TB does become a major issue again we will be in for “blame games” even nastier than those of the present.


  1. "If TB does become a major issue again we will be in for “blame games” even nastier than those of the present."

    We certainly will and we all know where the dividing lines will be. A very unpleasant prospect.

  2. So Cllr Barlett did have a point in banning smoking in Stony Stratford because dropped cigarette buts are equivalent to spitting on the ground!?