With the threat of the deadly, mosquito-borne Zika virus looming large over the country after repeated outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya, India needs a full-fledged national strategy to tackle all mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria. The answer does not lie in the wait for a vaccine against dengue and chikungunya but a national strategy on health and sanitation that will deal effectively, not just with vector-borne diseases but also a host of other disease. On this front, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Swachh Bharat programme holds considerable promise and should become part of India's National Health Policy.
This view was emphatically expressed by the internationally-renowned rheumatologist and expert on the Chikungunya virus (CHIK V), Dr. Arvind Chopra in an exclusive interview to Biospectrum India.
Speaking on the current chikungunya and dengue epidemics in parts of the country, Dr. Chopra said that vector-borne diseases should not be looked at in isolation. "We need to eradicate this problem by looking at all infections, and the answer lies in sanitation. The National Malaria Eradication Programme began well but did not achieve its end point and we continue to suffer. We certainly need better research and vaccine development, but above all, we need a cleaner country," Dr. Chopra said.
A gold medalist from the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) and the University of Pune (M.D./ postgraduate studies), Dr. Chopra is presently Director and Chief Rheumatologist at the Arthritis Research & Care Foundation - Centre for Rheumatic Diseases, Pune. He served at the AFMC and Military Hospital, Belgaum for nearly a decade before serving at prominent hospitals in India and abroad. An International Fellow of the American College of Rheumatology, Dr. Chopra is recipient of numerous national and international awards and fellowships. As the international coordinator for the WHO International league against Rheumatism, he has been leading COPCORD (community oriented program for control of rheumatic diseases) which has completed or is in progress in over 21 countries to measure pain, arthritis and disability in the community. "In India we have covered over one lakh population for several arthritis disorders and were also able to capture the musculoskeletal pain and rheumatism caused by chikungunya during COPCORD surveys in south India," he said.