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Cocktail of half-truths, blunders

Smallpox was eradicated from world in 1980, but NCERT seems to think otherwise, reports Sanchita Sharma.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2006 03:18 IST

Smallpox was eradicated from the world in 1980, but the NCERT seems to think otherwise. Its science and technology textbook for Class VIII tells students the exact dosage of the smallpox vaccine and its method of administration. For those who care to know, the textbook says 0.002 ml of the smallpox vaccine should be given to people through the intradermal route ("multiple puncture method," explains the text) in the lower arm.

"It's ridiculous," says Dr Anupam Sibal, director (medical services) of Apollo Hospitals. "Today, the last known strains of smallpox virus are kept in two labs in the US and Russia. What's the logic of teaching a 13-year-old the vaccination for a disease that doesn't exist?"

Not only are students taught about a disease that does not exist but they are also given unnecessary details about diseases that do. Students are told the exact doses of vaccines for DPT and measles and whether the vaccination is intramuscular or subcutaneous without explaining what they mean.

Sometimes the information is incorrect. Class VI students are told the hormone insulin "promotes sugar". And the textbook wrongly states that a typhoid "patient requires bed rest for the duration period of fever and for 10-13 days" after that. Also, "a light diet should be given to typhoid patients keeping in mind the possibility of ulcerations of the intestines".

Doctors say this goes against modern medicine. Says Dr Arvind Taneja, chief of paediatrics, Max Healthcare: "An antibiotic course brings down typhoid fever in four-five days and children can go back to school in a week. Bland diets went out of medical textbooks 50 years ago." Perhaps, it is the NCERT that needs a lesson.