Healthcare Medical Systemic issues of India Vector borne diseases

Admitting complete failure as a communicator

Though I hate to be indoors when I am writing, I have just given up and stepped inside the room because of mosquito attack.

As I stand defeated by these little monsters, I have become a bit despondent and have ended up musing over my three and a half year tryst with mosquitoes through this column.

This column was born from my meeting with DNA editor Shyam Parekh where the conversation was dominated by science of epidemics. It resulted into me getting this precious column-space opportunity to share my paranoia about our most ancient nemesis, i.e. mosquito, using my self-imagined ability to write.

Today, after nearly twenty pieces on mosquitoes and pathogens that ride on them, I stand utterly defeated.

I think I have tried everything possible. I have written about biology and ecology of vectors and pathogens to attract readers excitable by science. I have written open letters to AMC commissioner to health secretary of the state to make them see the diabolical possibilities if such an epidemic hits the state. I have pleaded about complete lack of research and the need of setting up research facilities. I have tried offering solutions and I have also tried scaring laypeople by portraying the horrors that mosquitoes are capable of inflicting upon the people living in a hot tropical region like ours.

If I look at the situation today, mosquito and the diseases caused by them are rising in the most predictable way. But nothing else has changed. I have not been able to convince the state to see what looks inevitable to me.

I see that an epidemic of mosquito-borne diseases, if not here, it is just around the corner, but I can’t see anyone in the state functionaries getting convinced about the danger.

The result is, we still have ZERO research work going on to fight the disaster heading rapidly towards us. We don’t even have answers to simplest of the questions about mosquitoes. Our only response to them is archaic methods that we have not bothered to evaluate since decades.

If I switch on the TV, I see hundreds of advertisements telling me about how effective their anti-mosquito coil, cream, liquid or patch are. I can see ads that show mothers telling me that mosquitoes die because of some superpower a given product has. I can see that mosquito has spawn a ten thousand crore industry in India.

But, do I see a single scientific investigation based certification from the state if any of these products actually work? Is there any academy or a research body appointed by the state to evaluate them before they are sold to general public tormented by mosquito menace?

The answer, sadly remains NO.

It is simple to deduce that mosquito research is required, and for that, the first requirement is funds and second, even more critical is mosquitoes.

Has the state funded any large research projects to study mosquitoes and their life-cycle? More interestingly, is there any academy where we maintain viable populations of mosquitoes readily available for researchers to work on? The answer to these two questions too, sadly remains NO.

I can see hundreds of PhD research enrolments in our universities, but I hardly see any student working on what could be existentially critical problem for us.

While I feel like a failure in convincing the state, I have a prayer to offer. I pray to God that I am completely wrong is my speculations about an impending vector-borne epidemic, because if that happens, it would be tragedy that will dwarf all that we have seen till date.

I may have failed as a writer in moving the state, but I pray to God that I will be a bigger failure as a soothsayer.

I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

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