Death to the Virus

This was Danse Macabre. This was a crisis born out of apathy and deliberate ignorance. As the stench of corpses mixed into the air, heroes emerged from the shadows and saved everyone.
Affected people in makeshift treatment centres; Source: Independent

Affected people in makeshift treatment centres; Source: Independent

Outbreaks. Quarantine. Epidemics.

While these words were not known to a lot of people before 2020, our daily vocabularies are incomplete without them. Amidst the corona pandemic, the country is witnessing turmoil not known to anyone. Currently, India is one of the worst affected countries. Yet this isn’t the first time when the country has gone down the hellhole of a deadly disease outbreak.

In 1974, the smallpox epidemic with a high mortality rate hit India, when the entire world was almost done eradicating it.

By June, some 20,000 people in Bihar had succumbed to smallpox. On 5th June, this was declared as an epidemic- a contagion that was needed to be feared and fought. In the span of 5 weeks only, 30,000 new cases were reported and almost all of them came from villages in Bihar.

Clouds of darkness surrounded the country when the World Health Organisation was sure of erasing the disease from its existence. This rather bold prediction was based on the fact that only 5 countries had reported smallpox cases that year.

Well, humans are faulty creatures and science also has its limits. WHO’s dreams became dust as thousands lost their lives.

While sparse cases popped up all over India, Bihar was the worst affected one. As usual, the country’s officials and political leaders were scrutinized by WHO for not responding to the outbreak soon. The people’s misery was nothing less than a theatre and action only came when the situation went out of hand. Not much has changed since then as we refuse to learn.

India then got ready to take the bull by the horns. Aid from the international community also proved to be extremely useful for instant relief work.

More than 50 epidemiologists from all around the globe worked tirelessly with local healthcare providers to vaccinate people.

Painstakingly, they vaccinated each person by the hand and meticulously tracked all active and potential cases.

While the world had its eyes on Bihar, India was busy somewhere else. Elections were going on in full sway and all public attention via the media was diverted there. Rings a bell, doesn’t it?

Amidst the student protests against the government in Bihar that was now months old, no one was willing to look at anything beyond politics.

It was only due to the efforts of doctors, nurses, and on-ground healthcare specialists that India was finally liberated from this abomination.


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