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Not a healthy sign at all

The dengue outbreak shows once again that we never learn from past mistakes.

india Updated: Nov 09, 2009 10:30 IST

At the risk of sounding facetious, the only thing one can say about the dengue epidemic that seems to visit us regularly is that no one seems to be able to pronounce it properly. But the appalling lack of concern that the municipal officials in Delhi have shown to a problem that has become an annual cause of concern, is worrying. Sacking an official who seems to have come up with startling figures of 23 deaths and 826 cases in both government and private hospitals seems to suggest that attempts are on to cover up the problem rather than deal with it. In areas where there have been deaths, there seem to have been many calls by residents to the municipality to undertake fogging. But, in all instances, there was no response.

We have often despaired of our government hospitals, which routinely seem to turn away patients because they are overcrowded. But it would turn out that private hospitals, too, are not averse to doing the same. Every time there is such a crisis upon us, there seems to be blame game. Here we see that the premier medical institution in India has denied reports of deaths on its premises. The Delhi health minister has called a meeting to review the situation today. But, the crux of the matter is that action should have been taken at the first report of the fever. In the past, too, there has been the tendency to quibble with figures on any communicable disease, be it dengue or swine flu. There has been precious little effort to beef up our medical system, which seems to be collapsing even in the capital. That it is in a shambles in smaller metros and villages does not bear repeating. Basic medical care is the right of every citizen. In the summer, we have all manners of communicable diseases which have now come to be taken for granted. The official response, if there is one, is that there was delay in fumigation.

If the medical system is unable to cope with the overload, it is vital that these small measures are undertaken to prevent illnesses. There also needs to be much greater public awareness of what precautions need to be taken in medical emergencies. It is not enough to say that there are no beds or testing kits in hospitals, whether public or private. In sprawling metropolises like Delhi, it is near impossible to be able to document such ailments. The only thing, even though clichéd, is to adhere to the dictum that prevention is better than cure.