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Spitting Spreads Disease
Don't Be Spitting, My Friend; It's Blowing In The Wind
It would seem my first essay on survival medicine should cover the treatment of gunshots or broken bones and the like. I chose this issue to demonstrate the complexity and variety of issues facing those living in survival situations. Something as simple as spitting on the ground seems so terribly benign, but it has the potential to devastate your personnel in camp or a long-term base of operations.
In the American culture, men spit more than women; but both men and women spit during illness, due to smoking, or to expel an overabundance of saliva among other reasons. This is a bigger problem in third world cultures, where spitting is almost an obsession.
Spitting on the ground is unsightly and unsanitary, even if you are camped on grass or dirt. Just because you are living in a survival situation does not mean you give up sanitary practices and the polite observances we've all come to know. Moreover, the more removed you and your group are from the sanitary conditions of modern society, the more you and your group should institute good habits.
The important issue concerning spitting is the spread of disease. TB is not widespread in the States, but the number of carriers is growing worldwide, including the United States. Even someone not showing symptoms can spread the disease. When someone with TB spits on the ground, it is possible for the TB bacteria to live for a short time. As the spittle dries, the bacteria clings to dust particles. The wind then picks up the dust particles, and someone breathes these into their lungs. Influenza and the common cold are also spread this way. No virus or bacteria lives forever attached to dust particles, but they can live long enough to infect others.
Knowing this gives me pause about the HIV virus. The medical world, like many institutions in this society, is swayed dramatically by politically correct ideals, and the HIV disease is caught in one huge windstorm of correctness. If the TB bacteria lives a short while outside the host, and if the influenza virus lives a short while outside the host, then who can truly say with certainty the HIV virus doesn't live a short outside the host under the same conditions? Maybe it does, and maybe it doesn't. Survival situations are not the place to practice political correctness but to practice good sanitary procedures. If someone in your group has TB, quarantine that person. If someone in your group has influenza, quarantine that person. If someone in your group has any deadly disease, no matter how politically incorrect, quarantine that person. You can't afford a mistake.
The members of your group should treat spitting the same as they treat urination or defecation. If you’ve just got to spit, kick a shallow hole in the dirt, spit into the hole, and then cover it. If spitting becomes an issue, designate spittoons and insist upon their use. You must be strong and insist upon compliance, even among the more ignorant in your group, who will resist sound instruction.
Prevention is more effective than treatment. You are too vulnerable in a survival situation to allow disease to gain a foothold. Institute sound protocols early, to both prevent disease and to accustom your people to healthy living under the worst conditions. Be strong and live.