Vigilance needed, even for preventiontext_fields
The Government and authorities in Kerala are trying to check the outbreak of the Nipah virus through prevention and containment. Apart from Maruthonkara panchayat in Kozhikode where the outbreak was first reported, several other nearby panchayats have also been declared as containment zones. Control rooms have been set up at the Directorate of Health. in Thiruvananthapuram and the Government Guest House in Kozhikode. Under the supervision of Ministers, the government has undertaken preventive and containment measures. As it is a contagious disease with a high death rate, the government is trying to contain the spread by all means. As this is the third time for the state to have a Nipah outbreak, in the light of previous experience, the government will be able to effectively move forward with preventive measures. That confidence is all too discernible in the authorities. Let us pray and hope that it will prove effective. The old slogans of 'Not fear, but caution' used during the previous Nipah and Covid outbreaks have been used this time too. The government needs to move forward anticipating people's fears and slack attitudes without escalating the situation.
The administration needs to learn from the past experience of what happened during the previous Nipah and Covid outbreaks with lapses in planning and lack of vigilance by the administration. It is time to deal with the crisis without bringing economic life to a standstill and without shutting down public life arbitrarily and indefinitely. The dire financial situation of the state was revealed in the Assembly amid heated discussions. In trying to prevent the spread of the disease, the administration also has the added burden of ensuring that the lives of the population and the market are not adversely affected. Equally important is to make sure that the prevention of disease control systems is given to the health professionals. This will help them in transparent and smooth operations and also be free of party political pressures. Politicians and public activists should show awareness and morality not to turn the epidemic and natural disasters into scoring political points, but rather should use this opportunity for public service and social reconstruction. We need to be determined to survive this adversity. At the same time, the state needs to take a step forward in matters of prevention and vigilance. What is seen now is that when outbreaks happen, the administration will rise and take countermeasures. However, are we successful in designing scientific methods for controlling epidemics? The Kerala model, however, is thrown into doubt by the numerous outbreaks that have been reported in the state. 36 dengue deaths and 55 rat deaths were reported until September in 2023. We own institutes like Institute of Advance Virology, Kerala in Thiruvananthapuram, field units of the National Institute of Virology, Alappuzha both of which are of international standards. In addition, there are pathology departments and microbiology departments in all medical colleges. Even with all of this infrastructure in place, and after the third occurrence of Nipah, we have not been able to get at how it is transmitted to humans. In Kerala, where deaths are recurring due to various types of flu, there needs to be mechanisms to analyse them properly. There are institutions manned by public health experts in the state like Departments of Community Medicine in Medical Colleges, PEID cell that was created at a Regional and State level for disease control and surveillance, State Monitoring Cell that was established in 2007 for disease control monitoring, Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies etc. If their functions can be coordinated, there could be significant progress in disease prevention.
In a state which claims to be ahead in health and hygiene literacy, one must examine how diligently people harness them in real life. The hygiene and health awareness seen at the individual level does not get translated to social cleanliness where waste is recklessly thrown around allowing them to turn into mountains of garbage on the streets, and sending a stench all around. This is not because Keralites do not have laws or awareness about waste disposal, but because they are not in a mental state to pay heed to anything. It should be realised that the spread of disease, weak immune systems that result in the transmission of diseases, and an environment where any infectious disease can spread quickly are all results of people's own deeds. The administration should prevent such occurrences before they happen and not when calamities come knocking. A healthy Kerala can be created only if the citizens become aware that their safety lies in the safety of others.