Saturday, June 14, 2008

Chikungunya: Untreatable or Treatment Unnecessary?

Chikungunya has at last reached Dakshina Kannada (DK) with hundreds of cases reported from Sullia, Puthur and Belthangady taluks. The health authorities, as usual, seem confused and are making every possible effort to spread the confusion in the community.

The state govt. has published an advt. in all the leading dailies of the state. On the one hand, the advt. claims, rightly, that chikungunya is a self-limiting illness that abates within 8-10 days and that it does not cause any complications or deaths. On the other, it also claims that enough life saving drugs and other necessary medications have been supplied to the affected areas. The advt. further states that ayurveda and homeopathy drugs are effective in preventing the spread of chikungunya and the people can mak euse of these drugs so as to protect themselves. The district health authorities have gone on record saying lakhs worth of drugs have been distributed to protect against the infection.

If chikungunya is a self-limiting illness, where is the need to supply life-saving drugs? What are these drugs?

It was also reported that at the recent meeting of DK Ziilla Panchayat, a MLA expressed his anguish that 'even with all the developments in the field of modern medicine, no treatment has been found for chikungunya'. His anguish is understandable. But it is one thing to say that there is no treatment for chikungunya and just another to say that no treatment is needed for chikungunya. An untreatable illness is a serious problem. A treatment that does not require any specific traement is a simple problem. Chikungunya belongs to the latter category. It is self-limiting, resoloves on its own, does not cause any serious complications and is not fatal. All that is needed is to provide relief from the joint pains, sometimes severe, by using simple drugs like paracetamol. Stronger NSAIDs and steroids can themselves cause problems and prolong the illness and are therefore better avoided.

The claim that ayurveda and homeopathy drugs are effective in preventing the spread of chikungunya is not substantiated by any relevant data. Neither the WHO nor the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme support any such claims. It has been reported that the DK district health authorities have spent lakhs of rupees to procure and distribute such tablets among the people in affected areas. It is not clear whether the authorities have obtained prior approval from the NVBDCP for such an action. In any case, promoting such measures that are unverified would only help in increasing the confusion and encouraging unscrupulous practices.
We expect the govt. to be more rational an dprobing before spending public money on such things.

ಕನ್ನಡದಲ್ಲಿ ಲೇಖನ ಇಲ್ಲಿದೆ

Report in Udayavani, June 15, 2008