From the Viewsroom

Don’t spread lies about Nipah

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on May 24, 2018

Social media posts discounting the risk are deplorable

It is unfortunate that in Nipah-virus hit Kerala, two self-professed medical practitioners, who are popular on social media, have come out with claims that the whole virus outbreak is hogwash, calling Nipah a conspiracy of the global drug ‘mafia’. They even said there is no such virus called Nipah, which, according to the World Health Organization, has killed hundreds of people in Malaysia in 1999 and many more in India and Bangladesh later. Even though authorities have registered a case against the two celebrity practitioners of ‘alternative’ forms of medicine for disseminating falsehood over social media, considering the popularity of these men, the damage it can cause to government efforts to contain the spread of the viral disease, against which no vaccine or medicine is available as of now, is immense. Such efforts to sabotage genuine and sincere efforts of hundreds of healthcare workers who even risk their own lives should be met with strongest censure and penalties.

The Nipah virus is transmitted from fruit bats to humans and the Kerala health department had issued a warning to the public asking them to avoid fruits and vegetables exposed to bats. In this context, a recent video post from one of these ‘doctors’, where he is seen eating mangoes he claims were tasted by bats in the Nipah-infected areas, can grossly mislead and confuse the public and derail official and civil society efforts towards Nipah prevention. It is welcome that Kerala’s Ayurveda private practitioners association came out against those who spread falsehoods and filed a complaint. Such efforts will help sanitise traditional medical care as well.

That said, this situation is an alarming pointer to the way pseudo-science and its practitioners can damage public healthcare. Also, this is an urgent call for the Ayush Ministry to streamline certification, recognition and practice of those who claim to be practitioners of alternative medicines. A transparent, modern and evidence-based approach should form the basis of such processes, which will help weed out fraud elements and enhance the country’s rich traditional cure infrastructure.

Published on May 24, 2018

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