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June 08, 2023 11:17 am | Updated July 04, 2023 01:31 pm IST

Diseases new and old reiterate the need to fortify the nation’s infectious diseases surveillance. 

Diseases new and old reiterate the need to fortify the nation’s infectious diseases surveillance.  | Photo Credit: PTI

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Now that the Southwest monsoon has arrived, there’s always some romanticism in the air along with the petrichor, but this time, a little trepidation too. In a world post-pandemic, when an infectious disease brought the world to a stop, After the pandemic, the threat of an infectious disease overwhelming the world continues to be alive and present, the possibility of such a scenario never far enough for comfort. The Indian Council for Medical Research has flagged, for instance, the growing geographic spread of dengue infection in the country, much like a growing batch of cells on a petridish. The infection geography of dengue, which was restricted to eight States in 2001, currently covers all the States and Union Territories in India, and now has touched the country’s last bastion, Ladakh, ICMR informed. It is clear that there is a need to fortify the nation’s infectious diseases surveillance and treatment strategies and health infrastructure. 

On to another infectious disease - one that has been around for a long while - Tuberculosis. After sobering realistic assessments that TB testing in the country was stuck in the last century and calls to modernise the field on a war footing, the death of a Tuberculosis patient in Kerala reinforced the gaps in the health care system that might come in the way of a goal of eliminating TB by 2025. 

Not all is to despair for. Latest data indicates that India has made significant strides in controlling stunting, while more work is to be done on controlling wasting and obesity among children. The Joint Malnutrition Estimates released by UNICEF, WHO and World Bank has a mixed bag for India, but the gains in reducing stunting are quite significant: In the decade between 2012 and 2022, stunting among children under five years in India dropped from a prevalence rate of 41.6% in 2012 to 31.7% in 2022 — with the numbers dropping from 52 lakh to 36 lakh. Naturally, India’s share of the global burden of stunting also declined from 30% to 25% in the past decade. No room for complacency yet, but small successes should be marked on the post too.

Everyone, including the smokers, are aware that smoking is injurious to health, but did you know that e-cigarettes can be habit-forming, and actually deliver more nicotine to those who use them? A recent study indicated that e-cigarettes constitute a continuing public health challenge in India, and one needs to be always aware of what one puts in the mouth.

The health ministry, last week, mandated that OTT platforms also must carry statutory anti-tobacco warnings just as screenings in movie halls are required to. Fair enough. A rapidly growing sector, it only makes sense that what works for the goose (cinema hall) should work for the gander as well (OTT). Studies have shown the effectiveness of statutory warnings, in conveying health risks to users, particularly warnings that contain large graphic content. After that, you at least know what you are getting into, and do so with full knowledge of the risks involved. Governments owe it to their people to communicate this to their citizens to, well, responsibly exercise their free will.

And then there was something new to learn this past week — of virtual autism. Increasing screen time for children and ways to bring that down - are issues that parents are battling with on a real-time basis. Recent research has shown that children, 0-3 years, who stared at screens for over four hours a day, had ‘sensory-motor and socio-affective deprivation’ which can impede learning processes later in life. In effect, we have ‘somehow’ got to dial it down, or the children will bear the consequences later. 

From the Health pages

If you have a moment to spare, do read these key stories too: 

Why is India rethinking its anaemia policy?

WHO to seek global certificate system, inspired by E.U.’s Covid pass

Government bans 14 combination drugs used to treat common ailments

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