Is India Ready to Tackle The Deadly Swine Flu?

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Irresponsible Minister Azad Backtracks His Statement on Reeda and Apologises to Her Family.

It was quite unfortunate that a high profile Union Minister for Health, facing the pandemic-like swine flu situation in India, instead of applying balm on the wounds of Reeda family, spoke irresponsibly. The minister held her virtually responsible for the spread of influenza in Pune.

On the TV, soon after leaving a Mumbai hospital, he said the girl (Reeda) affected by swine flu was responsible for spreading the deadly virus to 85 others in as many hospitals as she moved, one hospital to another and four hospitals in total. This irresponsible remark immediately drew the ire of the Reeda family.

All the family members spoke to the media, condemning the remarks of the visiting Health Minister Azad as irresponsible. They said their child never went to the number of hospitals alleged by the Minister. They alleged she died due to neglect by the doctors in the hospital in which she was admitted. She made a monumental sacrifice for the country, her mother said. They demanded an apology from the Minister for his irresponsible and insensitive remarks about the dead child and her family.

The beleaguered Minister had to eat a humble pie, when he apologised to the family, and expressed his sympathy to the bereaved family. He said that his statement was totally misunderstood by the media and the family. He was only trying to say that the disease was so contagious that it spreads like a wildfire when a patient is moved from one hospital to another. That was the reason why the number of casualties and cases increased in Pune and Mumbai. He never meant to hurt Reeda’s family, or others. He only wanted the families concerned to be more careful while treating symptoms of swine flu.

One can understand the anxiety of the Minister for Health, Mr. Azad, to combat the disease. But then in over anxiety, he should not lose his cool and be insensitive towards the families who lost their child because of inefficiency of the attending doctors. He must use all his energy to find out ways and means to tackle the pandemic. The PM is monitoring the issue after his meeting with the Health Minister Azad.

Now the question arises, whether Indian hospitals and laboratories are well equipped to deal with such an unprecedented situation to combat the spread of swine flu. It appears, much is to be desired on this front. First and foremost, they must guard the all disembarking points like airports, bus and railway stations. Screen all the people, especially those coming from places where the pandemic has spread. It is essential because, there is a tendency among the people to move to safer states even when family are suffering from influenza.

Thereby, these people inadvertently may cause the spread of flu to others in the new place. This is one of the reasons for the spread of the deadly swine flu in India, when people from abroad returned to India without being treated for the flu during their stay abroad. It is thought that a panic rush back to the country may be responsible for the spread of disease. Indian airports were too slow to react and take precautionary measures. When they woke up to the reality, it was too late.

The Government should immediately educate the people not to panic and move out from their homes, as other places are equally unsafe. Exodus or closure of schools and colleges would not be the best method to combat the spread of flu. The best way is to prevent it. Observe certain basics like hygiene, use kerchiefs while sneezing and keep away from persons who had even ordinary flu. Rush persons to hospitals immediately if any one of the symptoms occurs, for a thorough check up. Early detection can cure the patient. There is no need to panic or run for safety. This is the strong message all TV channels should carry to reassure the people that there is really no cause for worry.

India is truly facing a life threatening situation. With cooperation from the people, Government, hospitals and other clinics should be in a position to fight it out. I wish and pray God save us from the spread of the deadly disease. Prayers apart, India should equip itself with sufficient quantity of critical drugs to fight the influenza and see that it does not spread to other parts of the country. Jai Hind.

A.M. Jamsheed Basha is a Chennai-based columnist, political commentator, who writes on matters of importance, political, social and self-improvement.