Two viruses and a bacterium

Two viruses and a bacterium

Representative image. (AFP Photo)

With health authorities confirming four cases of COVID-19 in Bengaluru —three of them members of a single family – the dreaded coronavirus has debuted in Karnataka. With this, the total number of coronavirus cases in India has touched 50. Compared to several other countries, the pace of the coronavirus’ spread in India has been relatively slow so far but developments over the past few days suggest that this could change. Therefore, there can be no room for complacency or lethargic responses in dealing with coronavirus infections. Even as Bengalureans grapple with apprehensions relating to the coronavirus, old enemies of public health have raised their heads once again. Some 176 confirmed cases of H1N1 have been reported from Karnataka this year, 66 of them from areas that fall under the BBMP. Meanwhile, several cases of acute gastroenteritis, with some likely to be cases of cholera, have been reported from areas in southeast Bengaluru.

Covid-19 and H1N1 are highly contagious respiratory diseases while cholera, which is an acute diarrhoeal infection, can assume epidemic proportions very quickly. Their outbreak in Bengaluru is therefore worrying. The three diseases have struck Bengaluru at around the same time. The combined pressure of this triple attack is considerable. Is our already weak public health infrastructure in a position to fight off their combined challenge? Private hospitals must pitch in generously to support Bengaluru’s battle against coronavirus, H1N1 and gastroenteritis. These are deadly diseases. Although the fatality rate for Covid-19 is low, we don’t have a vaccine yet to prevent it. As for H1N1, we must not forget that in 2009, it assumed epidemic proportions. Over the past decade, Karnataka alone registered 15,000 cases of H1N1 and 532 related fatalities. Although cholera is easily treatable through administration of oral rehydration solution, it can kill within a few hours of infection if left untreated. Thus, none of these diseases that have struck Bengaluru in recent days and weeks can be taken lightly. Worryingly, gastroenteritis and cholera have struck the city well before the start of the season when these infections usually begin to get reported. Understandably, there are fears that the situation on the public health front could worsen as summer approaches and when the monsoons arrive.

Still, our response to the worrying public health situation should not be driven by panic as this will only make us fall prey to rumours. Rumours and fake news will encourage useless knee-jerk reactions that can only weaken our battle against deadly viruses and bacteria. Authorities must negate the impact of rumours by providing the public with timely and factual information that is based on scientific evidence. Else, they will open up space for rumours to thrive and miracle treatments to go viral.

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