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Wednesday 20 September 2017
News updated at 8:59 AM IST

Medical scenario in the event of N strike

By Dr Ambekar A Y, Dec 15, 2016, 0:35 IST
Till today, no information of an analogy on the medical consequences of any type of nuclear strike is available. The one that was dropped on Hiroshima was an atomic bomb with an infinitesimally small energy potential. The Chernobyl incident does not stand in comparison with an energy potential that might be unleashed in a tactical nuclear strike.

Some of us with stoic resignation feel that in an event of a tactical strike, it would be a blanket fatality. Such a possibility cannot be ruled out if the size of our nation were to be that of Swaziland, if we were to be a non nuclear power, if we were to be without a retaliatory capability, if it were to be a nuclear exch-ange or if it were to be a nuclear war instead of a tactical one.

Owing to the vastness of our country, the medical scenario in the aftermath of a tactical strike would not be as worse as is ima-gined to be. However, at ground zero, owing to the primary destructive factors like shock wave, thermal and luminous radiations, there would be nothing to prove that there existed once a flamboyant civilisation.

The radioactive fallout precludes photosynthesis in plants and reproduction of all biological entity for eternity. Several kilometres beyond ground zero, depending on the plethora of factors, with their amplifications and with their mutual enhancing effects, the question would be not how many would die but how long the dying would continue.

Cascading, catastrophic complications of health hazards of a strike transcend all boundaries and barriers. A strike anywhere in the country may still keep our retaliatory capability intact but with considerable number of casualties with a crying need of medical assistance in far-flung areas from ground zero. In such an event, absence of knowledge of at least rendering first aid at the earliest would be a fatal flaw.

Enormous energy would be released in seconds after detonation of a nuclear weapon and when this happens, instant light pulse equal to a thousand suns would be liberated. This results in primary fires followed by secondary fires.

Such multiple fires unite to form fire storms which will be followed by mutually enhancing effects, short circuits, hurrica-nes, dust, aerosols etc. These will be followed by an avalanche of pernicious consequences. Nucl-ear winter and nuclear night are final scenes before annihilation.

Soon after the strike, most of the health facilities would be damaged and logistics would be destroyed. Medical staff will not be spared. Radioactive contamination of hospital materials makes things worse.

The survivors would be panic stricken or thrown in to a state of stupor. Health effects of a str-ike outside the area of massive exposure are owing to injury to habitat or ecological effects. These in turn may damage natu-ral ecological systems and anth-ropogenic environmental components. Through direct exposure to radiation or by accumulation of radioactive products in soil and water and through food chain, they enter the human bo-dy and injure genetic material.

Medical consequences
In a strike, survivors’ resistance would plummet and turn immune to the system; malnutrition would result in explosive infections. The emergence of drug resistant organisms would make the misery multifold. Non-healing, delayed healing, infection of wounds, tetanus, gas gangrene, cholera, gastroenteritis, pneumonia, TB, bronchitis, typhus, allergy, asthma, asphyxia owing to dust, soot, aerosol, miasma etc, would continue unabated.

Precipitous decline in photosynthesis, the only provider of oxygen to humans, would beco-me a ‘Parthian shot’ to the survi-vors. Sharp fall in natural scavenger system would make man’s habitat most unhygienic and de-ny even a glass of potable water.

Toxic substances would generate significant levels of free radicals which would lead to degenerative diseases. Heat stroke may result in pontine haemorrhage, retinal damage, optic atrophy and cataract. Injury to blood system leads to bleeding disorders, anaemia, cyanosis, leukemia etc. Changes in the viscosity of blood could be on either side of the scale.

Damage to organs of hearing would cause deafness. Dysfunction of endocrine glands would be an ineluctable consequence. There would be a deluge of raging diabetes and heart diseases. In the long-run, survivors would invariably suffer from cancers. Fatal diseases in early childhood like retinoblastoma, terratoma, neuroblastoma, nephroblastoma cases would be a regular feature.

In normal course, a doctor has to wait perhaps whole of his career to see even one such case. Amenorrhea, ovarian cysts, infertility, abnormal and premature termination of pregnancy, infant mortality, congenital abnormality, abnormal sperms etc, would be occurring with unfailing regularity.

Oogenesis and spermatogenesis may irretrievably be lost. Genetic disorders would increase. There would be a plumb drop in population that would result in consanguineous marriages which in turn would lead to diseases like gargoylism, xeroderma pigmentosum, thala-ssemia, epidermasosis bullosa.

Changing atmospheric chemistry results in an unpatterned and unfamiliar medical complexities. Regarding psychological effects, suffice to say that the human brain would not withstand the horror and would cease to serve as it does now.

(The writer is a medical practitioner based in Belagavi)

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