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c. 1900s

Posters: ‘Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases’

Of that, there is no doubt.

Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases. Of that, there is no doubt — and one very specific disease (COVID-19), as of late. But in Britain, back in the early-to-mid-20th century, the phrase could be found on posters everywhere.

Crown Copyright/Imperial War Museum/Public Domain

And especially during the Second World War. This was one form of propaganda that people could readily accept. The reason for the campaign was not to prevent infectious diseases from being spread — or rather it was, but that was only secondarily. No, the primary purpose was to reduce absenteeism in the workplace.

Crown Copyright/Imperial War Museum/Public Domain

Mind you, the average sneeze or cough projects about 100,000 contagious germs into the air at up to 100 mph, so there is that, too.

Crown Copyright/Imperial War Museum/Public Domain

Today, the UK’s public health campaign slogan has moved from the pleasingly rhyming couplet to the more urgently dramatic: “Catch it.  Bin it. Kill it.”

Crown Copyright/Imperial War Museum/Public Domain
Crown Copyright/Imperial War Museum/Public Domain
Crown Copyright/Imperial War Museum/Public Domain
Crown Copyright/Imperial War Museum/Public Domain
Crown Copyright/Imperial War Museum/Public Domain
Crown Copyright/Imperial War Museum/Public Domain
Crown Copyright/Imperial War Museum/Public Domain
Crown Copyright/Imperial War Museum/Public Domain
Crown Copyright/Imperial War Museum/Public Domain
Crown Copyright/Imperial War Museum/Public Domain

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