One can think how a weekly column can be written on a virus !. Maybe it is difficult in another country, especially if it is related to a developed nation with an educated population. But it is very easy if it hits a developing nation, especially a Southeast Asian country like Sri Lanka with ignorant and selfish people. It is because there are many things that need to be talked about in addition to the virus !
It is not so long since we walked out from the grave situation created due to the COVID-19. We should not forget that a total of 16,882 people died here in Sri Lanka by September 22nd, 2023 (last Friday) due to COVID-19. A total of 672583 cases were reported so far during the same period. This is how we faced COVID-19. By now almost all Sri Lankans have forgotten what they underwent from March 2020 to December 2021. It is simply because Sri Lankan people do not remember anything more than two weeks’ time.
Sri Lankan health authorities have already taken steps to make sure that the latest virus, ‘Nipah’ does not enter into Sri Lanka through Airports and harbours. But there are many other ways that Sri Lankan people directly connect with foreigners. One such method is involving in fishing in deep sea. In the sea, people from Sri Lanka and India exchange food, water etc and keep very close contacts inside boats. This is why we talk about this new virus today even it has NOT arrived Sri Lanka and there is NO danger at the moment. We are raising awareness among people instead of making them panic. But sometimes there is no way of raising awareness among ignorant people without making them panic because they are not scared of anything or anyone except sudden death ! They are not scared of slow death cause after a decade or two !.
But now it is time to remind the past, take all necessary precautionary measures because the latest virus, ‘Nipah’ has already hit India and by now India is taking urgent steps to halt the transmission of a rare but deadly virus that spreads from bats to humans. In the southern Indian state of Kerala, the bat-borne ‘Nipah’ virus has infected six people, two of whom have died since it emerged in late August.
‘Nipah’ virus has been previously detected in bats in Kerala. Most infections are thought to come from contact with an infected animal, either the fruit bats themselves or from intermediate animals such as pigs, as in the first detected outbreak in Malaysia.
Is ‘Nipah’ virus infection dangerous? Yes, very. The CDC says that death may occur in between 40% and 75% of cases. More than 230 people have succumbed to the disease in the country, mostly in states that border India. West Bengal on the border with Bangladesh also saw two outbreaks of the ‘Nipah’ virus in 2001 and 2007. While the virus doesn’t transmit easily, human-to-human transmission is possible.
The prevention of the disease is simple. Preventive measures are included practice hand washing regularly with soap and water, avoiding contact with sick bats or pigs, avoiding areas where bats are known to roost, avoiding eating or drinking products that could be contaminated by bats, such as raw date palm sap, raw fruit, or fruit that is found on the ground and avoiding contact with the blood or body fluids of any person known to be infected with NiV. It is because NiV can be spread from person-to-person.
Now Sri Lanka is facing the gravest financial crisis in the history. There are some shortages of some drugs and medical staff here and there. People cannot afford long and hard medical treatment from the private sector. There is no vaccine for ‘Nipah’ and what can be done is treating symptoms. That is it.
According to the Consultants who educated the media during a special press briefing held at the Sri Lanka Medical Association last Friday, ‘Nipah’ should be handled similar to COVID-19 and the incubation period is 21 days. The diagnosis is being done mainly through PCR and other medical tests such as blood tests, urine tests etc done when required. The disease spread through droplets and body fluids. Eating food after cooking thoroughly is a must when it comes to preventing ‘Nipah’.
Although the people should not believe details that circulated in social media platforms that make them panic, they should take precautionary measures in order to protect themselves, especially the groups who are vulnerable to any communicable disease not only ‘Nipah’ or COVID-19, they said.
According to the Consultants, it is very good for the vulnerable groups such as infants, aged, individuals with low immunity, individuals who suffer from chronic diseases, individuals who are under immunity lowering medications, individuals who underwent serious surgeries recently etc to wear masks in public. All individuals who suffer from any flu or flu-like symptoms should wear masks in public in order to protect healthy people. In certain countries such as Japan and Korea, people usually wear masks in public.
The symptoms of ‘Nipah’ virus are fever, headache, cough, sore throat, difficulty in breathing and vomiting. Severe symptoms may follow such as disorientation, drowsiness or confusion, seizures, coma and brain swelling (Encephalitis). Death may occur in 40 percent to 70 percent of cases.
There have been ‘Nipah’ Virus infection outbreaks in pigs Malaysia and Singapore, and human disease in Malaysia, Singapore, India, and Bangladesh. Evidence of the virus without clinical disease has also been found in fruit bats in Cambodia, Thailand and Madagascar.
We Sri Lankans should have common sense. According to this common sense, we should understand that visiting affected areas in India is highly risky. Therefore no matter how hard pilgrimages organizers try to catch customers, Sri Lankan people, especially aged people should not fall into their traps, travel to affected areas in countries and fall into trouble. Aged people are one of the leading category in the vulnerable group. It is the responsibility of Sri Lankan tour operators not to organize pilgrimages to affected areas in the world which are now under lock down.
The other responsibility of Sri Lankans is revealing the truth, come forward and seek immediate medical advice if they fall sick after traveling to one of the affected areas in Asian countries. Usually they hide inside their homes putting their family, neighbours and friends in danger. This is what they did during the COVID-19. They are very good at it !
Typical Sri Lankans are extremely ignorant and selfish. They never care about other people. They just think about their own safety. Young generation is not scared of any disease because they believe that they never die from any disease. They do not care about their sick family members, aged parents, friends of at least themselves. This was repeatedly displayed during the COVID-19 period. Under this condition we cannot expect any Sri Lankan to wear mask voluntarily. Wearing masks will be need to make compulsory legally when the requirement arise in future with the arrival of various new viruses. Otherwise no Sri Lankan will wear masks willingly.
During the peak of the COVID-19 period, some state and private offices were functioned with essential staff and some members of those staffs rejected wearing masks during official duty hours stating that it is difficult for them to work with masks on. They purely put the lives of all vulnerable staff members at risk selfishly while the heads of institutions turned a blind eye and deaf ear to such incidents.
Those fatal errors cannot happen for the second time if more serious viruses such as ‘Nipah’ hits Sri Lanka in future. The Government, especially the Health Ministry and the law enforcement officers should take stern action in order to protect vulnerable people. Protecting every and each vulnerable citizen is the sole responsibility of the state. Sri Lanka has no strength to face a second health Tsunami now. Both people and health authorities should keep that hard fact in their mind. There should be no hesitation at all when making wearing masks in public compulsory.
Here in Sri Lanka there is nothing called making people panic. This is because typical Sri Lankans are not scared of anything or anyone at all and they are extremely ignorant and selfish. Therefore the only way of directing their attention towards something crucial such as a deadly virus is making them panic. It is the health authorities who should understand this bitter truth before asking media not to make people panic.