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Short of epidemiologists, Karnataka struggles with virus

The Karnataka Health Department is plagued with a shortage of epidemiologists that could undermine their role as disease detectives.

Published: 22nd March 2020 06:43 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd March 2020 06:43 AM   |  A+A-

Staff and general public seen in masks at the KSRTC Bus Depot in Bengaluru on Friday. (Photo | Meghana Sastry/EPS)

By Express News Service

BENGALURU: The Karnataka Health Department is plagued with a shortage of epidemiologists that could undermine their role as disease detectives. Especially when Karnataka is fighting Covid, it is high time the health department looks at the severe shortage, experts said. According to Karnataka Medical Council statistics, Bengaluru has four epidemiologists and the entire state only 24. Epidemiologists play an important role in protecting communities against health threats.

They identify the causes, factors and patterns of illnesses, determine who’s at risk, give evidence to recommend preventive actions. A senior doctor said epidemiologists and virologists are the best to strategise the tools to slow the spread of the disease. Dr Gururaj, professor, Department of Epidemiology and a faculty Head of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion at Nimhans, said, “Their need is not just during Covid, but also to ensure that the public health system is in place.” Dr Giridhar Babu, a public health expert, said, “Except for Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra no state has effectively put in force the public health cadre. Most of the time public health planning and action is managed by clinicians who are not trained in public health.

There is a great need for epidemiologists. Each time there is an outbreak, the governments are only reactive and again we continue to lose lives without focus on prevention.”Combination of factors have contributed to this shortage, but it is mainly due to lack of funding for public health, said experts. Dr H Veerabhadrappa, KMC, said, “More epidemiologists are definitely needed especially in a crisis like this. But the state can look at alternatives like doctors who have studied community medicine. They are even more equipped than epidemiologists as they would have studied this. There are even diploma graduates who have studied community medicine. This stream has a minimum of 10 people in every district. They will be at all medical colleges too.” 

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