Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Swine flu or I should say H1N1 has caused a lot of media uproar. There have been minute by minute updates flashing on practically every news channel. Is the panic unwarranted, are we overreacting? The answer is yes, but only when we compare this to our innate apathy in addressing other health related issues in an adequate manner. The fact that after so many years we are still not able to eradicate polio is a case in point.

And yes we have our own set of excuses -
Oh ours is such a big country so we can’t control an outbreak
Oh our population is over 10 raised to 9
Oh we are poor
Oh its law of nature to clear out a few people through epidemics
Oh we can’t do it ….only the west can do that…..
Oh the thing is….

The above excuses come because of the dogma that resides in us as we feel that we as a nation are in a perpetual state of poverty and that basic healthcare is a luxury we cannot afford.

And here comes the shocking bit of news - all major indicators like immunization, maternal health and even family planning have shown negative growth1 (data posted at the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) health management system). It is obvious that the health ministry was sleeping as the previous heath minister was busy fighting the AIIMS director and looking on how to position his party for the general elections rather than his priority of holding an important government portfolio. Fortunately democracy has its self correcting mechanisms. His party lost the elections after deciding to fight alone and not alongside the Congress led UPA.

All the above indicators of healthcare have to be taken into serious consideration. One among them that we can ill afford to ignore is the high infant mortality rates. We cannot allow future engineers, doctors, artists, architects, teachers, nation-builders to die. Allowing this rate to remain high will be a crime of biblical proportions. The fact of the matter is that the right to quality healthcare should be a fundamental right of every citizen. This is the bottom line and no excuse can justify citizens not getting quality healthcare.

Also coming back to swine flu, this certainly is not the last epidemic that we would see. So better we learn from this experience. This time we were fortunate that swine flu had come to India after a considerable time period, but we can’t be lucky all the time. So we better utilize every bit of time to plan our course of action if the undesirable happens and be prepared to take all the preventive and curative steps at our behest. The attitude of the government in response to the swine flu outbreak in India has been more reactive than being ahead of the game in tackling the issue head on. The government had sprung into action only after relentless media pressure. The ministry imported additional testing kits, and also sent a special task force consisting of the health secretary to Pune, the epicenter of swine flu in India. Also the health minister made regrettable comments2 which reminded me of a similar insensitive comment made by Mr. R.R. Patil at the time of 26/11.

Government on its part must focus on all healthcare issues seriously and not just react like head-less chickens. Media has to learn to follow-up on the government on important healthcare issues like polio eradication, severe malnutrition and anemia among our children.

1 http://www.indianexpress.com/election-news/its-official-all-major-health-indicators-show-negative-growth/501101

2 http://ibnlive.in.com/news/ridas-family-slams-health-minister-demands-apology/98885-17.html?from=search


Damn rite man....the govt. just showed us again what kinda haphazard things happen in matters of national importance...and as far as the politicians who call themselves ministers and the media are concerned, it doesn't matter to them how many live or die....as long as their pockets remain full...its one disgusting truth of "the biggest democracy in the world" !! haha!!!

Nikhil Bhagia said...

True. Few interesting facts here: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Swaminomics/entry/swine-flu-learn-from-94

manasa said...

To support your answer to the question if we are overreacting here is a letter from Dr.Deepak Purohit to the presidents of Rotary.

My dear Presidents,

I agree with you that swine flu awareness is needed, but there is no need to be panicky and join the publicity propaganda carried out by media and others which acts as a vehicle to spread misconception than to spread scientific information.

These are few facts about swine flu when discussed with the leading epidemiologists.

1) Swine flu, that is H1N1 flu is not new, first detected in 1987.

2) Infective stage of flue is 5 days, 1 day before and 4 days after onset of symptoms.

3) The best way to prevent it spreading is asking patient having symptoms of flu like fever cough and running nose to take rest at home for 4 days so he does not transmit it.

4) Masks are of limited value if any, in this disease, it can spread through droplets on your skin, through contact etc, and I have seen that the masks in Pune are worn as fashion statement, while walking on road today morning I saw people wearing masks coming out for a morning walk with their dogs!, many wearing masks around their necks, and so on, infect these masks shall act as the vehicles to carry the virus, instead, avoiding crowded places or cinema halls or malls where air conditioners are on, is advisable, because you get recalculated air, where the virus density multiplies.

5) Death after H1N1 flu is not common, infect infections like measles is taking toll of thousands more every year, and we are oblivious of the facts. Swine flu is being blown out of proportion by media trying to create hysteria among lay people.

6) Fever accompanied by respiratory distress, should be immediately notified which is likely to be a complication of H1N1 flu.

7)The mortality is less than .01 percent of those affected, that means may be one in 10,000 affected is likely to suffer the life loss.

8) If you remember, 2 years ago SARS was blown out of proportion, what happened? Humans develop immunity to the virus, the same is going to happen, we develop immunity in due course of time, the virus is in the air, you can not stop it, our body is already developing the immunity so nothing to panic.

We need to take care of children and elderly who have less immunity and do not let them go to crowded places that are all.


I am amazed to hear that people are selling masks of RS 20 each which are available to less than Rupee 1 in the market.

See who is getting benefited?

Please spread the scientific info, do not join the band wagon and stick to science, that should be the order of the day.

Deepak Purohit
District governor

Ajinkya said...

But man its true .. with such a huge population things are not that easy ..

prabhu said...

The Government could have created a separate website to act as a database for medical information, flu spread, authorised hospitals.

Nikhil Bhagia said...

I guess Swine Flu can be easily swiped off if Mr. Ajit Pawar or Mr. Suresh Kalmadi gets d *H1N1* . The whole Pune will be chaka chak in half a week!!!

ArUn ShArMa said...

Srini, nice post indeed, but there are some points that I don't really believe are true. The first thing is that in as diverse country as ours, we cannot expect government to provide every facility to everybody. That'll be socialism or communism and not Democracy. I agree that the regulations should be in place and execution should be proper, but private sector and individuals also have their role to play for which government can provide subsidies, grants or funds.
Second, swine flu is a panicky situation because it kills in matter of days. The issue that should be addressed in this situation is the supply of masks and prevention of over-pricing of these masks and other preventive equipment. Proper information and threats need to be cascaded to even the lowest levels.
And thirdly, population is ACTUALLY a problem for the country and we are not faking it. India is growing at the highest pace in the world and we will overtake China in a few years. We do need to address it ASAP.

Roopa said...

true enough...!!! It reveals the story of delay and neglect by the Indian govt. And this irresponsible behaviour will continue in future also..India it seems had no wish to learn from its past mistakes and every problem whether it's a terrorist attack, a natural calamity as in Bihar or any disease outspread ia always heightened by us.......!!!!

Post a Comment