The common feeling among the general public is that the authorities are leaving patients and their families to fend for themselves. With each passing day, as fresh cases of dengue, viral fever, diphtheria, cholera and malaria get reported, the anger and frustration among them are on the rise

The Union Health Ministry recently had issued an advisory for persons travelling to China and the Gulf countries, especially those flying to Mecca on pilgrimage. Alert was that in China, a new strain of bird flu (H5N7 strain) had mutated, and that humans were falling prey to it. It also said that in West Asia, a SARS-like ailment, Coronavirus, was wreaking havoc.

Like swine flu, which had its origin in Mexico, but created panic in Hyderabad, there was a clear and present danger from bird flu and Coronavirus strains here, too. The local response, however, was none. No alerts were issued, nor was there an attempt to hold screening camps for travellers returning or going to China and West Asia.

Indifference

Doctors and outbreak watchers believe it to be another glaring example that reflects the cavalier attitude of health officials to disease surveillance and prevention of outbreaks. It was sheer luck that both the strains did not reach the capital, they attest. The common feeling among the public is that the authorities have left patients and their families to fend for themselves.

With each passing day, as fresh cases of dengue, viral fevers, diphtheria, cholera and malaria get reported, the anger and frustration among them are on the rise.

Ailments

Not surprisingly, this year, too, the capital has received its share of ailments and fatalities, starting from swine flu, cholera, malaria, gastroenteritis, viral fevers and now diphtheria, an ailment which is purely vaccine-preventable. The health officials have maintained that the ailments are sporadic, and that the fatalities were suspected cases.

Meanwhile, senior doctors point out that the basic issues, including disease surveillance, identifying high-risk zones, water quality surveillance, mosquito control and spreading awareness about seasonal ailments, are consistently being brushed under the carpet. “They respond only when a case of dengue, diphtheria, cholera or swine flu is reported from an area. There are no proactive measures but only knee-jerk reactions. Then, there are instances when there is denial and under-reporting,” says former IMA member Dr. C.L. Venkat Rao.

A case in point is the instance where Mayor Mohammed Majid Hussain pulled up the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation Entomology officials for wrong reporting of dengue cases. “There is enough data to identify the areas prone to outbreaks. The GHMC sits on huge piles of revenue but does not allocate enough funds for year-long disease surveillance programme,” says Dr. Rao.

According to Hyderabad DM & HO Dr. Narendrudu, screening camps are the bedrock for medical surveillance. “A majority of dengue, swine flue and malaria cases came to light during these medical camps. We are collaborating with private hospitals to track outbreaks. For instance, the two cases of Cholera from Ziaguda were not virulent,” he says.

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