Skip navigation

Category Archives: Rhetoric

security1After the chilling incidents in Mumbai during the last few days, we are all ‘limping’ back to normalcy. Meaning, we are now turning away from page One to the sports columns and page 3s faster than the last couple of days. For a change, ‘important’ heads have already rolled or on the block this time, but honestly the pessimists amongst us do not expect major changes except that after all the political chess moves, I think finally India will be under lot of pressure, ironically!

 

Which is not the point of the blog: this is about two incidents that left me with no doubts that we are a nation of fools.

 

Incident One: My boss went to a very reputed scientific organization in Bangalore on Friday to give a lecture on how to prevent heart diseases. The august audience consisted of some of their top scientists. This organization was recently in the news for carrying out successfully a very prestigious mission, thus enabling India to join an exclusive club of nations who have carried out similar feat.

 

On reaching the gate in his private car, my boss’ driver lowered the glass and the security guard peeped inside and asked the driver who deing driven. He was told that so-and-so doctor from such-and-such hospital was there to deliver a lecture. The guard must have had this info earlier and must have been expecting the good doctor, who incidentally is very reputed. But still, no identification papers were asked for and the car was allowed to pass without even a symbolic security check of the boot and the undercarriage!

 

The doctor was then accompanied by some scientists to the director’s office. The director was very courteous and they both had coffee together. All this while my boss was carrying his laptop which remained unchecked. Later on when he finished off the lecture at a hall below, my boss suddenly remembered that another leather bag which he had carried was accidentally left behind in the director’s office and it remained there during the entire time of the lecture!

 

I shudder to imagine the security consequences if at all this visitor were a turncoat or someone in disguise or simply a different guy. And this monumental negligence was on Friday when we were still fighting the terrorists holed up in the hotels.

 

Incident Two: I drove to a reputed hospital in town to visit a sick relative admitted there on Sunday. The security guy handed me a parking ticket and waved me in. I asked if there is going to be any security check. The guy’s face was blank and I instantly realized two things: one, there is going to be no increase in security at many such places. Two, it struck me that this security guard was probably not even aware of what had happened in Mumbai, and why I had asked him if there was going to be a security check of the car!

 

Just after such an attack on my motherland, half of us don’t seem to care and the other half is not even aware. Do we still expect 26/11 to bring about a change in our attitude? Forget about it..

 

 

vac1This was an unusual dilemma for me. My second child was due for routine vaccinations & my wife planned to take my first child along. Our pediatrician, incidentally a dear friend, suggested that Hepatitis A vaccine be given to my first born. Wife consulted me & with whatever knowledge of hepatitis A and various vaccination programs, I said no. But my wife & our pediatrician together decided otherwise and the vaccine was given anyway. They somehow tried to justify their stand by saying when it comes to children’s health one should not mind spending, as if I was worried about that! In fact the kind pediatrician, offered to pay for the vaccine! Thanks a lot doc!

 

This blog is in response to that event. I’m bouncing my thoughts off you, random reader. This has now got nothing to do with my daughter’s bygone vaccination.

 

Hepatitis A is a viral infection which is transmitted by feco-oral route (Don’t say yeeash!). Fecally contaminated water contains viral particles and when such water is consumed infection occurs. Now there is a difference between Hep A infection & Hepatitis A disease. In a large majority (nearly 90%) of children who ingest Hep A contaminated water the virus enters the system, goes into the liver cells, is recognized by the body immune system and is cleared by the body’s policemen. In the process the child develops permanent immunity against future Hep A infection.

 

In less than 10%, children exposed to Hep A virus, the virus actually damages the liver cells leading to ‘jaundice’, before the body’s immune system is activated. Eventually immune system wakes up and clears the virus from the body, damaged liver cells heals, thus jaundice goes away. Extremely rarely, liver damage is severe enough to be fatal. Unlike Hepatitis B or C, hep A never causes chronic liver disease.

 

In adults on the other hand, it is a little different. Nearly 30% of those exposed to Hep A suffer from jaundice. And the illness is clinically little more severe in terms of symptoms and duration in adults than in children. Even in adults fatal liver damage is very very rare.

 

So it appears that it is better to have Hep A exposure during childhood than later.

 

In endemic regions like India, water contamination is so rampant that practically everyone is exposed and immune to Hep A before they are 10. On the other hand, in developed world, exposure is rare. So it makes sense for a child in the US to be vaccinated against Hep A.

 

Early vaccination (my child is 3yrs), prevents natural infection and immunity and if the vaccine acquired immunity wanes in late adulthood, the individual is at risk for developing clinically more serious hepatitis. So WHO does not support routine vaccination in endemic areas where Hep A exposure is universal and natural immunity is lifelong.

 

Any thoughts on this?

 

P.S., this kind of argument does not apply to diseases like Diphtheria or measles where the clinical illness is severe as well as life-threatening. What I’m saying is I’m not against vaccinations in general. Only against Hep A vaccination for children in endemic areas