Thursday, August 13, 2009

Déjà vu

This could be a case of déjà vu for Pune. As swine flu cases are rising day by day in the city, the state government has enforced provisions of a 112-year-old law that came into force because of an epidemic during the British Raj. It was the year 1896 when bubonic plague had struck Pune. It was the worst period the city had ever experienced in its history. About 300 to 400 people used to die at a time and it was difficult task to cremate all the bodies. The act empowered the government to take any decision to control the epidemic. Powers included taking possession of suspected patient, controlling places of crowd and examining any individual or any place without permission from a legal authority. The appointed officers took advantage of the situation and used to humiliate, torture and beat people, including women, which led to unrest amongst the junta. That time Chafekar brothers came forward as saviours which lead to the assasination of Gen Rand and helped in bringing the situation under control.

This time its little bit different. We would not need any Chafekars to kill any Rand. Under the act, the officials can forcibly take suspect swine flu patients for screening — but it does not apply in the real context because anxious people themselves go to hospitals without doctors’ references. Just a sneeze and there is a sure visit to Naidu hospital (the only hospital where Swine flu is being treated).

It all started with the arrival of an exchange student from Chicago. Abhinav Vidyalay english medium school was the first school to report swine flu patients. Daily the positive cases were increasing rapidly with growing panic in Punekars, esp children.
There were two groups of people in Pune. One who felt there was nothing to get afraid as it is just another type of influenza and the other group was taking all sorts of precautions to prevent the spread. The former group came up with statictics like, the mortality rate is just 0.01%, and making people remember the outbreaks of more dreaded diseases like SARS and Chikungunya. But they failed to understand that the infective period of H1N1 is from a day before you can see the symptoms to 4 days after, with symptoms just same as normal flu and hence deceptive. At early stage it is curable by Tamiflu, a drug which has to be taken only when tested positive. If someone takes it as a preventive measure, then the virus can develop resistance to the drug increasing the chances of getting infected.

The nightmare worsened after the first death. The two prevaling groups started merging into the latter. Panic increased. One more hospital, Sasoon, was granted permission to check patients for the flu. More and more people started queueing up at these hospitals and the authorities started facing crunch of the medium in which swab was to be preserved. Although these two hospitals were not adequatly equipped the govennment was resistant in allowing private hospitals to do the testing. And without any permission private hospitals would never take a risk of dignosing any patient, esp after the first death.

The death toll is rising. Today the count is above 10, with age groups ranging from 9 months to 65 yrs. It is forecast that the virus would prevail for atleast a year after which it would make a sesonal appearance. Now a couple of private hospitals have been granted permission. There are preventive measures excersised by the citizens. Some of the household measures include- chewing 1 clove a day, inhaling clove oil camphor fumes, eating raw garlic, onion, ginger, drinking hot milk with 2 gms of turmeric, eating lots of vit C fruits and washing your hands thouroughly for atleast twents times in a day (as this virus remains active for 8 hrs and could be residing on hard surfaces like tables, door knobs newspapers etc).

Malls and roads are deserted. One can clearly see the difference ib the crowd on one of the busiest roads in Pune. There are hardly any people seen outside. and whoever is seen is seen with a mask on. N95 masks esp prepared for swine flu protection is not available in Pune. People are buying normal surgical masks for 10 bucks which were normally sold for a ruppee. Children are not permitted to go out to play. Schools are shut down for a week. Janmashtami celebrations in the city have been unanimously cancelled and people are taking care to avoid crowds.

As on one side we are gearing up for our beloved Ganeshotsav festival, with scluptures and decorations going in full swing, on the other hand people are apprehensive about carrying out this festival on public scale, just hoping that Vighnaharta will come our rescue.


  1. @ This time its little bit different. We would not need any Chafekars to kill any Rand

    sala ..... agdi muddam adnav ghalun ghetal chance milayawar.......

  2. Ya, this time we will need Chafekars to write *such* blogposts only . .

    baki loka sudharlet mhane hygiene babat swine flu mule, thats at least one good thing

  3. kay re. sarkar ni batmidar mhanun nemla ahe ka tula?

  4. @punky.. mhanala jara samaj prabodhan karu.. situation far kahi changli naiye