Majority of the ‘mysterious’ diseases are ‘missed’ diagnosis: experts

The majority of the so-called ‘mysterious’ diseases are ‘missed’ diagnosis which highlights the lack of proper training in outbreak investigations and poor investigational facilities at the district level, said experts while participating in the webinar on “Mysterious diseases: The failure of disease surveillance in India’’, organised by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), here on Monday.

Vipin M. Vashishtha, paediatrician, Mangla Hospital and Research Center, Bijnor, said often autopsies and histopathological examination are not performed to understand the nature of the diseases and this coupled with lack of proper team approach, coordination and collaboration works against the halting and spread of mysterious diseases.

“What is alarming today is the declining interest in infectious diseases and in their control and prevention. We must remember that each of these mysterious diseases — perhaps perceived as ‘diseases of the poor’ — have a potential to turn into a COVID-19-like pandemic. Today, COVID-19 has shown us that there is no class divide: the ‘diseases of the poor’ can affect and ravage the rich as well with equal ferocity,’’ said Sunita Narain, Director-General, CSE, who anchored the meet.

Novel zoonotics

She said every year unnamed and unidentified diseases put hundreds of people at risk in India. This is despite an elaborate system for disease surveillance. The meet discussed whether India can afford to be complacent in the face of this onslaught of emerging and re-emerging diseases — many of them novel zoonotics.

Dr. Rajan R Patil, epidemiologist, said mysterious outbreaks are like terrorist attacks for the public health system. “They will keep happening if we don’t invest in good disease surveillance.’’

Concluding the meeting, Ms. Narain said we must have the wherewithal to find the causes of these diseases and that they should be caught before it happens. “Medical community can collaborate and work with the media to investigate first alarms,’’ she said.

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