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What swine flu? Indian medical establishment ignores pandemic on the Net

As Swine Flu cuts its lethal swathe across India, what helpful  resources can citizens – many restricted to their homes in places like Pune --     find, if they turn to the Internet for help? We checked -- and found  that some of the most obvious targets of anxious enquiry, seemed to be in a time capsule of their own, utterly insensitive to the crisis with which ordinary Indians and the medical profession is grappling.
Let’s start with the Indian Medical Association, the body that represents over 100,000 Indian members of the medical profession . Every time we tried to access the website http://www.ima-india.org  we received a virus warning from our net security provider and  had to ‘clean up’ the virus before we could even begin to look at the site. We might as well have not bothered: There was  no visual indication on the home page to indicate that the IMA was seized of the Swine flu pandemic. We had to drill down into the contents to dig up the only piece of relevant documentation: a PDF document issued by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) , their monthly newsletter, a special issue on Swine Influenza  that was published in  March 2009 and  seemed not to have been updated since.
We did not fare better with the regional units of IMA from Punjab to Kochi, which had web sites of their own, highlighting building inaugurations and other serious matters of professional interest to the good doctors but  nothing to show that the organisation was aware of the swirling health crisis in the country.
You would have thought the parent site of the NICD  ( now renamed the National Institute of Disease Control since July 30), would live up to its new name ? Think again.    The site has been updated right up to August 14 – only to post the latest tender notices. Its only nod to the swine flu crisis, is thesame 5-month old news letter, www.nicd.nic.in/Tdr_CDA_Swine.pdf
What about the Indian Pharmaceutical   Associationthe premier professional association of pharmacists in India, with a member base of over 10,000, spread across the length & breadth of the nation”? http://www.ipapharma.org  There is a call for nominations for their lifetime achievement award, last date September 15, but hey, who has time for irrelevancies like swine flu?
What about the Indian Drug Manufacturer’s Association “(Membership of over 600 wholly-Indian large, medium and small companies… Turnover of Indian pharma industry about Rs. 75,000 crore today”? http://www.idma-assn.org/   None of the   75,000 crores seem to have gone into informing Indians about what the drug industry is doing to help tide over the current crisis the home page is innocent of any mention of swine flu.  
The Pune-based National Insitute of Virology  http://www.niv.co.in/  also disappoints. It is the nation’s monitoring centre for influenza; yet sees no need to share any insights or information with the public, that would indicate that it is apprised of the pandemic. The only concession it makes is a  text ticker which warns that it has not   recommended any indigenous formulation like Nilgiri Oil. Great. Then,  what has it recommended?
We stumbled on only two  significant government sponsored web resources:
One: the Govt of India’s official HiNi site: http://india.gov.in/citizen/health/h1n1.php  which is wide ranging and thoughtfully yet simply laid out. It leads to state wise information on local testing and resource  centres: http://india.gov.in/citizen/health/health_cont_online.php
Two: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has its own web resources, which include a daily update, as well as important guidelines for lay citizens as well as the medical profession: http://mohfw.nic.in/swineflu/main.html
The fact that these   few official resources are up and running, does not absolve the other agencies we have visited,  from  recognizing their responsibility  to inform and reassure an anxious public. Shame on you, government and industry agencies alike!
 
Inside and outside India, we also found the  following  additional swine flu related  resources:
Wikipedia’s 2009 flu pandemic site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_flu_pandemic
Global swine flu news portal: http://www.swineflunewsportal.com/index.asp
 
( Aug 14 2009)
 
 
 
 



    


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