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SARS Challenges Habitual Behavior
The SARS epidemic has once again brought the issue of health and hygiene to the fore. People's bad habits, such as spitting in public and potentially unhygienic practices, like sharing dishes in restaurants are being reevaluated.

Bad habits reflect the lack of awareness of health issues. We can easily find these bad habits in our daily life.

Some people casually throws away his cigarette butt when he is waiting for a bus or pours out dirty-water on the street.

The long-hated practice of spitting in public is now arousing increasing monitoring and criticism. Research shows that bacteria can survive in phlegm for long time. The SARS pathogen, for instance, can live for as long as 38 hours.

Though no evidence has yet indicated that pets spread SARS, the sanitation issue of raising pets is under hot debate. In the neighborhood community, dogs go to the toilet in public parks.

"Personally, I think pet raising should match each household's situation. If you live in a house with private gardens around, and the dog doesn't make noise, you can have one. But if you live in an apartment in a populous area with limited grassland, dog-raising should be restricted. Dog owners are obligated to keep their pets clean. That's a social ethic all of us should respect," said Zhou Xiaozheng, sociologist of People's University of China.

Concerns over pets are not unnecessary. More than 200 kinds of diseases have been found in both human and animal groups, such as AIDS, plague, snail fever, and tuberculosis.

Bad habits are receiving more and more public criticism and even penalties. But potentially virus-spreading practices, especially some catering habits are facing great challenges in this time of SARS.

One-person portion dining practices have proved to be more popular than China's traditional dish-sharing during the SARS outbreak. It's hygienic and has little chance of spreading the virus. But for some who have been used to share dishes, this may be unacceptable.

Many say there's nothing wrong to share dishes with their friends.

The killing and cooking of wild animals has long been prohibited by the government. But some people take the risk to taste this forbidden delicacy. Experts' dissections of snakes, a most popular wild-dish in parts of southern China, disclosed a large number of parasites living in the muscle tissue.

"Because the killing of wild animals is prohibited, you know nothing about how and where they come from. They might be harmful to your health," said Hua Yuping, wild animal expert of Northeastern Forestry University.

SARS has sounded a warning against unhygienic practices. It also presents an opportunity for citizens nationwide to rethink some improper habits that they have been used to for so many years.

(CCTV.com May 26, 2003)

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