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Wellcome Image of the Month: TB Warning

23 Mar, 2012

TB spitting poster

March 24th is World Tuberculosis Day. It commemorates the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch announced he had discovered the cause of TB by successfully isolating the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, for which he won a Nobel Prize in 1905. At the time, TB was widespread throughout Europe and Koch’s discovery was the first step towards diagnosing and curing the disease. Today, one third of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis and World TB Day aims to raise the awareness of this global epidemic.

Our Image of the Month is a striking poster warning against the dangers of spitting printed by the National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis (now The Stoke Association) circa 1950. You might wonder why spitting matters. Well, tuberculosis is a bacterial infection spread through the air when those infected with the disease expel tiny droplets of saliva by coughing or sneezing. The bacteria are slow dividing so the infection develops very slowly and is asymptomatic until it reaches the lungs. Classic symptoms are persistent coughing with thick blood-tinged phlegm, weight loss, fever, lack of appetite, breathlessness and extreme tiredness.

So the next time you see someone offering their saliva to the pavement tell them to stop spitting because a) this really isn’t particularly pleasant viewing for fellow pedestrians and b) it’s dangerous and could contribute to the spread of tuberculosis.

Ruth Milne, Wellcome Images

Wellcome Images is one of the world’s richest and most unusual collections, with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science. All our images are available in digital form so please click the link above if you would like to use the picture that features in this post, or to quickly find related ones. Many are free to use non-commercially under the terms of a Creative Commons licence and full details of the specific licence for each image are provided.

Image credit: Wellcome Images
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