The perilous disease SARS : The nebulous media bar

a poem by

Hiren Shah

After “AIDS”, now we are forced to confront the dreaded disease “SARS”
Sometimes, I really wish it was possible to leave the earth and settle on MARS.

The 21st century is not immune to new and deadly diseases has been proved by “SARS”
They seem to break out and proliferate with the frequency of Delhi’s cars.*

(Delhi has more vehicles than Bombay, Calcutta and Chennai combined)

Just as a body (Hindu) on being burnt after death chars
The same affect can be created on the mind by spreading baseless rumors on SARS.

“Viveka” or discrimination is endemic in our culture; it is all right to glamorize film stars
The greatest degree of circumspection and restraint in reporting is essential on SARS.

Stress and Depression being the challenges of 21st century,
one cannot afford any psychological bimars*.
On hearing false news and views of a disease like SARS

(*Bimar means sick person in Hindi)

Not only individuals, false information can sometimes affect whole families or parivars*,
There just cannot afford to be any false reporting in matters like SARS.

(*Parivar means family in Hindi)

If proved false, there cannot be a greater farce
“Fear of diseases being deadly”; ask those psychologically affected by diseases like SARS.

Whenever one hears of a new disease because of the fallout of a new virus,
The doctors have to fight a battle that reminds one of the one between Alexander and Porus.*

(Porus was one of the most valiant kings in History who stood up to Alexander the great)

The symptoms of SARS are high fever, coughing, breathing difficulty and Pneumonia,
To the doctors, it is giving sleepless nights and causing Insomnia.

Whether or not the diagnosis requires an X-ray,
Even in the 21st century, doctors are finding it difficult to keep such diseases at bay.

Every time the virus is found in some new patient’s blood,
There is a reaction of a major catastrophe; in the media there is a verbal flood.

Whether or not it requires blood, urine and other samples,
Blind panic can be avoided by exaggerating and highlighting numerous examples.

To really fight the outbreak of any disease
The media should downplay it a little, instead of exaggeration, it should try to cease.

What is really required is for the doctors to get quietly and effectively busy,
Unnecessary panic created by the media sometimes cannot make their job easy.

In unnecessarily highlighting certain commons Symptoms,
The media can create the kind of adverse reaction witnessed on pinching a lady’s bottoms.

If blind panic is not to spread among the public, actual and the prospective patients,
The media has to be guarded in what it mentions.

To avoid an epidemic, just as incoming patients are screened.
It is equally important that negative news too is smartly preened.

While awareness of the disease is no doubt essential,
Irresponsible highlighting and sensationalisation has far more damaging potential.

What is really required of the government is effective surveillance
Only then, the medical fraternity and the patients too can practically fight with resilience.

If the disease has to be fought on a war footing,
The media has to restrain itself in reporting; whether in printing or shooting.

More important than whether or not the virus spreads
Is the psychological factor; its vital that no child, man or woman unnecessarily dreads

Even if one is to accept the fact that the virus may prove to be fatal
“Mind over matter” cases have proved in History that psychology is equally vital.

Whether or not such viruses mutate
A similar metamorphosis in people’s mind cannot be allowed to perpetuate.

If one goes by the dictum ” Unconventional maladies have unconventional remedies”
Unconventional reporting can prevent adverse affects on children, Gents and ladies.

One has to see hard facts and show how many people actually got infected,
There should be no preconceived notions and people should not get falsely affected.

The govt. and medical people have to be on a red alert,
The media has to go in the opposite direction; it should not unnecessarily spurt.

In this case, the media has to be judicious in being the public’s guide,
It does not have to go out of the way to show how many people got infected worldwide.

If it is really over keen to show how many people died,
The media should also consider how in the battle of Mahabharat, Yudhisthir* lied.

(A character in India’s epic serial Mahabharat
known for speaking the truth lied mildly when the situation called for it)

In such cases especially, “Perception of reality is more important than reality.”
It has been proved that in addition to the body, it is the mind that has to retain its vitality.

The causes of a disease are confirmed by the World health Organization,
The causes of panic can be avoided only on the media’s realization.

Even if the govt. is able to set up the requisite infrastructure.
What is the point if the psyche of the patient already suffers from multiple fracture.

As claimed sometimes by the govt; if the disease is a false Alarm
The actions of the media can cause irreversible harm.

Nobody can dispute the fact that the media has to make the public aware,
However the slightest overexposure in such cases can cause panic; it should be beware.

On such important matters, the media cannot afford to display nonchalance,
Much more important in such cases however is to maintain balance.

To sum it up, I would say that whether it is Cancer, AIDS or SARS.
Battling the disease may not be as difficult as fighting the psychological scars.