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China pneumonia outbreak: Top AIIMS doctor says India must stay vigilant

India must remain vigilant against global health threats, given the outbreak of respiratory illness in China, said Kaushal Kumar Verma, Dean of Academics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). Speaking at the seventh edition of the Mint Healthcare Summit, Verma warned about the potential dangers posed by such outbreaks, particularly given the ease of international travel.

He cited the rapid spread of Covid-19 from Wuhan as a stark reminder of how quickly such viruses can transmit across borders.

Verma, however, was quick to reassure that India’s experience with Covid-19 has bolstered its readiness for future pandemics. He reflected on India’s successful containment during the initial pandemic wave and warned against the complacency that led to a severe second wave. The importance of a resilient healthcare system in managing such crises was underscored.

The recent rise in respiratory diseases in China, as reported by China’s National Health Commission and the World Health Organization (WHO), has triggered concerns. While these cases have been attributed to the flu and other known pathogens, the WHO has urged for more information on pneumonia clusters among Chinese children.

Experts, however, see little indication of a new virus being the cause.

The Indian government, meanwhile, has instructed states and union territories to reassess their hospital readiness. The health ministry is closely observing the situation in China, with a particular focus on pediatric cases, and has urged states to strengthen their preparedness for the influenza and winter season.

Verma also brought up the issue of unreported Covid-19 deaths, referring to WHO data that reported significant underreporting. He emphasized addressing these disparities, especially in rural regions.

Highlighting India’s strengths in healthcare, Verma pointed out the shorter waiting times for medical procedures at institutions like AIIMS compared to those in developed countries. He emphasized India’s advantageous position in global healthcare, citing efficient appointment systems as a key factor.

Regarding advanced technology at AIIMS, Verma shed light on the institution’s robust research environment, with numerous projects across various departments, drawing significant attention in the realm of medical tourism.

Verma also addressed the rise of lifestyle diseases, noting the shift from solely communicable to both communicable and climate-related diseases. He stressed ongoing challenges with diseases like malaria, diabetes, and tuberculosis, particularly in rural areas, underscoring the need for focused attention in these domains. LiveMint

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