Was it dengue?

Thanks to some archaic thing called the Communicable Diseases Act, the government has monopoly control of a lot of public health information. I.e. if three people die of plague in your school or neighbourhood, the hospital or clinic that tried to treat and cure them is not allowed to tell anyone that they are handling dengue cases. Instead, they have to report it to BBMP as a ‘suspected dengue’ case, which will be verified by another fossil called the National Institute of Virology in Hyderabad, after which dengue will be confirmed. If any hospital violates this protocol, it will get a warning from the government (has already happened a few times).

I understand that the government does not want to create panic in the city, by making people think there is a big problem. But I fail to understand why accurate and public data should add to the panic. If anything, it should reduce the worry levels, and help citizens understand the exact nature and extent of the problem. The mai baap sarkar, however, operates on the assumption that the "government knows what is good for you more than you know yourself".

Now, we may not mind some of this too much if the government did a good job of maintaining public health information. But it does not. Instead, it just stops you and me from doing it, and quietly buries its own responsibility for alerting the public. This has to change.

As for the two kids who died yesterday, I really would like to know if they had dengue. I would like to know which parts of the city are more prone to dengue than others. And if no one in BBMP can answer these questions, I want something more sensible and useful than "we are processing the case, and have not yet reached a conclusion". I have – BBMP can’t process these cases!!

What worries me even more is that when a patient who is ‘suspected’ to have a communicable illness dies before the virology test is complete, they seem to abandon the test, saying, "What’s the point? The guy’s dead anyway." This is ridiculous. The public health value of the tests must be made more prominent. Being silent about a ‘communicable’ disease is a bit of an oxymoron, anyway.

Ashwin Mahesh
About Ashwin Mahesh 85 Articles
Ashwin Mahesh has been involved in public policy for Bengaluru through his work with the Karnataka government. The views expressed here are his own. He is a member of the Lok Satta party. He is also CEO of Mapunity Information Services, and a director at Oorvani Media, publisher of Citizen Matters and India Together. He is also a visiting faculty with the Centre for Public Policy at IIM Bangalore.

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