The novel Coronavirus that erupted in China is reminiscent of the time when virus Ebola created an alarming situation in a few African countries five years ago. The corona virus that was reported in Wuhan city in China last December, has by now spread to over two dozen countries.
In China alone, presence of the virus has been confirmed in 17,200 people. 362 of them succumbed to death. This is more than the fatalities caused in China by the epidemic of SARS (Severa Acute Respiratory Syndrome) – which is a variant of the same Corona virus – during 2002-03. Not only that, a death outside China has also been reported for the first time, in the Philippines. India, and own state of Kerala are also facing the threat of corona. As informed by Kerala Health Department, about 2,000 people have been put under observation, and three of them have been diagnosed with the infection.
Even amidst the anxiety during this health emergency, we cannot keep away from it in fear. As directed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the first line of defence against this virus epidemic consists in facing it with caution and courage. Going by the statements of those responsible in Kerala, the state is moving forward with relatively high lvel of efficacy in that direction. Of course, such efforts should be given all-out support of the public as well as health workers.
As of now, there are no effective vaccines or medicines availble to defend against coronavirus, not to speak of the genetically engineered novel coronavirus. But using the knowledge and techniques acquired by modern medial science, such germs can be brought under controlled. This control was well in evidence in the cases of Nipah, Zika and Ebola. Recall that those afflicted with Nipah in Kerala, were originally affected by encephalitis. It was tehe use of medicines like the anti-viral ribavirin administered on the assumption that it could redue mortality rate, and such other treatment methods, that strengthened the defensive management of the disease and eventually helped bringing Nipah under control within a matter of three weeks. The masures taken to prevent the infection to others, arranged wthin limited facilities, also became effective. In that sense, Kerala set a new health model and won plaudits of the world.
In the current situation with reported coronavirus, similar steps have been taken by the government. Although the peventive measures taken in close mutual co-ordination by the departments of health, education, police, local self-government, and the involvement of private hospitals cannot be said to be adequate, as an emergency response it is certainly a model for other states. All the same, such crisis situations also betray the shortcomings of the much-hyped Kerala health model. For confirmation of the presence of coronavirus, samples were sent to the virology institute in Pune till yesterday. Only in the situation when a large number of people came under observation, did the virology institute in Alappuzha get approval to do those tests yesterday.
Even during the Nipah virus attack, the inadequacies in the facilities of Alappuzha virology lab were a subject of discussion; it is now clear that the steps to make it a dependable centre were moving at a slow pace. It will also be pertinent to examine at this time how many of the state's medical colleges have an advanced virology lab. Even as we take pride in having thwarted viruses including Nipah, the authorities should also ponder over the many government hospitals that suffocate with insufficient amenities.
Regardless of the limitation and shortcomings, evey citizen is bound to be involved proactively in the preventive activities undertaken by the government and health workers. On the whole the state is united in this, although some can be seen turning their backs to the efforts. During the deaths from Nipah virus, there were quarters here who questioned the very concept of germs causing diseses. And they have now set about 'defending' corona too; they even go to the extent of floating conspiracy theories like virus is a fabriction of pharma mafia, and what happened now is a continuation of China's organic weaponry.
As a matter of fact, such propaganda are more dangerous than the viral epidemc itself. At a time when a drive is on to bring every one likely to have conracted virus infection under observation with an aim to stem the spread of the disease, if even a small number of people fall a prey to such arguments and abstain from treatment, it will lead to serious consequences. Such people should be reined in using law and it should be ensured that precise and scientific precautionary advisories reach the public. Only then will we have the full protection against such disasters.