Thursday, April 28, 2016

My small smallpox effect!

My writing to the ministry of health might have had some effect after all! Twitter might have some use in shaming governments/institutions into action. That is, if that's how the sequence of events took place. But all credit to the small newspapers on the net for publishing the details of India's long silence about a medical myth.

I first heard of a single case of smallpox in early March, that amma had come to a slum nearby. Didn't really pay attention. From around the 12th? of March there were reports of smallpox outbreaks in the north of India - first a school mistaking chickenpox for smallpox (23 students and classroom fumigation ... my conspiracy senses were tingling!:) Second in Jharkand (allahghar? some such district) third in Bihar (larger - 3 villages affected) at which point I posted something to the MOH on Twitter vaguely disappointed by the govt. health department for its negligence, then two districts in UP in early April in Dalit villages.

I'm a hardened cynic about our govt action, but to my pleasant surprise on the 17th of April, the MOH swung into action and sent teams to the affected areas to get blood samples and the works (not vax yet, unfortunately though). Patrika proudly reported it as their achievement, which it was,  since they reported the outbreak so bravely!

I'm hoping it will start to change the silence around smallpox, maybe prevent it next year with ring vax or whatever dull idea the germ theory touts call brilliant epidemiology.

Like other countries, India can call it by a different name (like in Africa) and not lose face. Or they can say that herd immunity has worn out after all this time and still maintain the illusion of eradication. Anything is better than where it's been for so long!

The medical community's myth of eradication has been the cornerstone of allopathy's spread and success. But maintaining the illusion has been 35 years of harm to the people. Ignoring epidemics might be ok for the west right now, but it will cost them no matter how they spin it as refugees carry it into their environment.

It won't be a 'biological warfare' suitcase that carries smallpox into Europe, just living tissue (the plague or anthrax would do better in a suitcase actually, or zika virus or the many flu viruses - smallpox, like Ebola, tends to wipe itself out, after all).

Many tribal communities in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan have regular  epidemics. Why else would the  U.S/UK/etc armed forces be vaccinating mandatorily from 2002 to date for overseas duty? An open secret.
Arguments can really harden us into polar positions. When I saw Matt and Avocado so proud about the 'eradication' of smallpox as a medical victory in Oct-Nov, I'd just felt their youth and let it go. How good it must be to have such faith in what one does. No harm in that, I've lived in that certainty of innocence myself in the past.

But it was annoying to hear it repeated into Jan and Feb. Especially as the polio drive became a media fanfare. These germ theory enthusiasts, I tell ya. They'll repeat the errors of the past again.

I particularly remember the unfinished, rushed nature of smallpox vaccination camps. The poor communities resisting it - they have/had such a suspicion of govt programmes! I knew it had never reached the villages or forest interiors in the 70s and 80s, and my mom had me vaccinated for smallpox 4 times because it flared up so often. The dalits, nomadic muslims, kodava, harijan, biar,  gypsies, amma worshippers, so many went with the old herd immunity of exposure rather than vax. It'll happen again with rushing polio.

I knew that Oct wasn't the season for pox, so pointless arguing it then - foot&mouth, distemper and fip in animals, yes, but poxes came around March-May. I expected it not to reach the press at all, or past the editors, but then I thought of the smaller, independent Hindi papers that has considerable freedom of expression.

I set up a search for those and, the reports started up. Quite proud of myself for that actually! I should have done it for more Indian languages, esp south Indian ones, but I don't like Googling or Chrome or Translate so this had to do until I left Twitter. (I was feeling the stress of a fading solar plexus by the first week of April.)

Glad that the Health Ministry did something right this year - more power to them then! Hoping they find the courage to let the world know and then handle it as it should be done - with care for the suffering!

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