Kerala

Police flag widespread health fraud

Health Minister K.K. Shylaja at a press conference to confirm that a 23-year-old college student admitted to a hospital in Kochi had been infected with Nipah virus.

Health Minister K.K. Shylaja at a press conference to confirm that a 23-year-old college student admitted to a hospital in Kochi had been infected with Nipah virus.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The State police have flagged a marked increase in misinformation and alarmist propaganda related to Nipah virus since the scourge reappeared in Kerala last week.

Investigators say they have spotlighted at least two self-styled social media evangelists of naturopathy, who dangerously promote magic cures, quack treatments, and non-clinical methods to treat the lethal virus. The police say they have used their sizeable online presence to generate a torrent innuendos against the State-coordinated medical interventions to contain the outbreak.

One has posted a video of him eating a mango which, he says, has been discarded by fruit bats. He posits it as an act of casual bravado to debunk empirical evidence that infected bats could pass on the virus to human beings.

In another video that has gone viral, a vehement critic of modern medicine claims he can treat viral afflictions without drugs and through dietary adjustments. He warns against quarantining afflicted persons and claims that pharmaceutical majors have created the scare to sell their products.

Bid to create stigma

Cyber investigators say they have come across scores of online attempts to stigmatise Nipah caregivers and ostracise patients and those who have come into contact with them.

The police are ready to press charges against the rumourmongers once the Health Department files specific complaints. They would also request social networks to pull down such questionable content from their digital platforms.

In September 2018, the police had arrested a self-styled social media ambassador for alternative medicine on the charge that he exhorted the public to spurn doxycycline, a prophylactic distributed by the State to prevent the spread of rat fever in the wake of the floods in August last.

He had claimed to have a non-interventionist method to treat the affliction. The Crime Branch had arrested him on the charges of quackery, causing mischief and spreading falsehoods. It concluded that self-advertising for financial gain had motivated the individual and others of his ilk to indulge in such health fraud.

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Printable version | Aug 16, 2020 1:56:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/police-flag-widespread-health-fraud/article27473732.ece

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