Short Stories

Outbreak! Read and rate this story.

 

Akarsh was getting impatient. Three hours of agonizing wait in the sweltering March afternoon was rapidly draining out his energy and fortitude. An impromtu press conference called in by the State Health Ministry had resulted in a furore among the medias, causing his instant removal from the assignments in hand and transference to the Mantralaya building. The press conference scheduled at twelve p.m. had been delayed as the health minister was in another meeting within the premises. Why bother with another pretentious conference, Akarsh mused. After all, the media was nothing but an obstreperous, ruckus generating industry, that contributed little in the constructive governing workings. And we know whose questions are going to be entertained. This was all a complete waste of time, he moaned silently.

Hon. Dr. Praful Prajapati had been a highly respectable academician in the field of Gastroentorology, known globally for his research on colon malignancies. Despite the high ranking positions he held in various academies over the years, he was known for his camaraderie with students. He loved medicine, and above all teaching. He took delight in explaining intricate concepts and answering queries. It had been a year since he had taken up the post of  the State Health Minister and had already become popular owing to his strategies in web medicine, that had made expert medical opinions more accessible in remote villages. The state however was now facing a new medical upheaval that warranted immediate awareness in the population, without causing panic. Hence the conference inviting only the credible media sources had been arranged.

Ah relief! Thought Akarsh, as he stepped into the air conditioned interior of the conference hall. He was among forty something reporters, handful of which, he noticed with a jolt, were famous television faces. He was in no way a newbie, but had a long struggle ahead him to be considered in the same league. With little medical knowledge, he doubted he could really be pertinent enough for taday’s conference. But his boss had thought him capable for today, and that was enough for him. It was as though the cool, conditioned air breathed a new life into his journalistic keenness. Suddenly alert, he smartened himself and scrambled to get a good view of the podium. Rather, a position, that would put him in good view of the podium. He saw the officials take their chair and adjust their microphones. He cleared his throat, suddenly wishing he had carried some water with him. The conference began.

“What is the nature of this new bug?” The first question of the session was a rhetorical one. Those in touch with the global news, were already aware of it being a new virus with its origins traced to Eastern Asia. Duh! Thought Akarsh. Dr Prajapati began authoritatively, “The bug in question is a virus and a highly invasive one. The strain identified was first reported to have infected a large portion of Eastern China, Japan and the Fiji islands”

Before Akarsh could raise his hand, another question was already on the way. The symptoms? “The virus mainly affects the developing blood cells white and red alike, resulting in pancytopenia and condition that is marked with anemia, hemorrhagic tendencies and a marked decrease in immunity” explained Dr Prajapati, “thereby eventually debilitating the patients repair mechanisms. The presentation of the illness however is a humble flu like condition. The patient eventually succumbs to common infections or may collapse from excessive internal bleeding.”

So this is a serious outbreak? Akarsh grimaced. Of course it is! His hand was aching from stretching out too long. Dr Prajapati however, patiently replied, “Yes, this an extremely serious condition, not only owing to the severity of the symptoms but also dur to the high virulence of this particular strain.”

What is being done to overcome this predicament? The important question. What is the Government doing? “All the travellers arriving from affected areas are being screened for symptoms of unexplained fever. The hospitalized patients that do not respond to standard antivirals are being investigated for presence of that particular strain. Unfortunately the only valid test of diagnosing the case is a polymerase chain reaction test for the viral RNA. Apart from being expensive it is also not available easily. The ministry however is doing its best to upgrade the PCR machines at all the government medical centers so that the entire population can access this diagnostic tool. The Ministry has also issued notices in public interest regarding the preventive measures to be followed in the wake of this calamity. The television radio and you newspapers will be updated from time to time regarding the course of this particular epidemic” finished Dr Prajapati in a seasoned manner.

What about the cure? Is this condition treatable? Ah, now they are getting close, Akarsh smiled. “Curable or not, remains to be seen. But definitely treatable. If the case is presented in time, that is. Luckily a molecule called Firenciclu is shown to curb the viral growth and has passed phase 3 trials. The government has already obtained the import permissions, inspite of the substantial patent charges. We look to replicate the molecule in our pharmacies to make this medicine available to all.”

Many hands were still held up in the air when the official sitting on far left stood up to conclude the conference. The interviewers were thanked fro their time and Dr Prajapati was escorted off stage.

Akarsh got up dejected and moved out with the crowd of reporters, some of who were murmuring in appreciation of the minister, others complaining of the limited conference time. Packing his recorder and notes in the carriage he mounted his bike and zoomed out as fast as the busy highway traffic would allow. He would now have to get back to his pending assignments which meant an overnight office stay. He stopped at the local tea vendor’s hut, adjoining his office for a cup of refreshment, one of many he would be needing need that evening. He mulled over the interview and its futility.

Dr Prajapati sipped his Earl Grey with the satisfaction, a fruitful day always gave him. Sometimes a harmless little bug generated for a fantastic remedy at hand is the best business strategy; as long as you you are true to your oath of doing no harm, that is.

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The above story is an entry into the writing event(Feb. 02nd – 20th) hosted by ArtoonsInn: #PullTheRug #UniK-3

Event rules and guidelines: https://artoonsinn.com/pull-the-rug-unik-3-writing-event/

Check out Sai Surve-Rane’s space here: https://artoonsinn.com/author/sai-surve-rane/

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Photo by Chuck Grimmett

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Categories: Short Stories, UniK-3