Now in Goa, Academician and Physician, Dr. Anushri Mukhopadhyay in an exclusive interview with Nibedita Sen, for News Sense describe the actual scenario in China. She has returned to Goa for a break in mid-journey. She is an academic as well as Practioner at the International Medical School in Sichuan Province of Mainland China and now guiding her students in China through online classes.
Dr. Mukhopadhyay teaches regional Anatomy, Genetics, Medical Ethics, Radio-imaging and Biostatistics at the university, which she is now continuing from her home in Goa. Narrating the ground story she says, “When the news of the epidemic in Wuhan broke, I was in constant touch with my students and colleagues who had stayed back during the holidays through WeChat. Many of them hail from various parts of India and Pakistan like Peshawar, Karachi, and Hyderabad, etc, but most of the students are Chinese. At first, they were pretty at ease because as instructed they stayed indoors. The students were given free ration from the University. From what I gathered the administration took good care of their needs.“
She further says, “I came to India on 18th January 2020 on a regular post semester break. Everything was perfectly ok at that time. The streets were grooming up for their New Year. Chengdu City was all dresses up for the advent of its New Year. The air had a festive feel in it, all relaxed and perfectly fine on the day I left for India”.
China now is towards recovery, the reason she says, “In China abiding the law is very easy because everyone follows the law. I was told that there was regular health checkup and a pass was issued by which they could leave for groceries and household supplies once a day. The two months of lockdown went smoothly. I was concerned about my apartment water and electricity bills, to which my fears were allayed by the WeChat message saying the administration is exempting all from electricity Bill’s for 2-3 months and they ensured there’ll be an uninterrupted supply of water and electricity. Overall ones who stayed back were looked after quite well,” Dr. Mukhopadhyay explained.
Dr. Anushri Mukhopadhyay teaches two batches of students, one with 38 students and another with 68. They are drawn from various countries across the world, including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Guyana and South African.
Speaking about her own health she said, “I wasn’t alarmed at all because travelling to China always entails a peculiar kind of flu. Even this visit I suffered from a prolonged cold and cough in December in China. No medication would help since I diagnosed it as viral in origin, I cured it myself with lots of warm water and tea (not green tea but the regular Indian leaf tea) Even during my last stay in Guangzhou I had contracted Bird Flu from Sanya in South China, the actual epicenter of bird flu, it was bad. I somehow recovered again by my own treatment. Because of language barrier I avoid hospital visits out there, most of these viral flu are easy to treat with self medication.” In hindsight I should have travelled with a flu shot. This is mandatory in Western countries.
Pandemic out of a virus is not a new phenomenon.
In March 1918, a person called Albert Gitchell reported to military medics at the US base at Fort Riley, Kansas with a bad cold, was achey and feverish, with a burning throat and bad cough. He was quarantined in a tent for soldiers suffering from infectious diseases. However by lunchtime 107 soldiers were unwell, all complaining of the same symptoms. In a week 522 men were affected. The virus then travelled swiftly to the entire Europe and thereafter to all corners of the globe to become a pandemic. This came to be known as the “Spanish flu” because Spanish press was the first to report. A virus that usually makes people ill for a few days had claimed an estimated 50 million lives. The flu pandemic of 1918 was over in1919, vanishing as quickly as it had arrived.
Dr Mukhopadhyay says, “Fast forward to the year 2020, epicenter being Wuhan China. On January 23rd, soldiers wearing black masks deployed along barricades at the train station became the flagship sign of the place of its origin. In a week stadiums, exhibition halls, and other large venues became quarantine centers; the rows of beds set up inside looked more like military barracks than hospital wards. To contain the largest outbreak in Asia, Chinese health and security officials went door-to-door—checking for people with symptoms. The lockdown was later widened to more than a dozen other cities, constraining the daily lives of sixty million people. It’s the largest quarantine in human history. All this to contain an RNA particle which is not even a complete cell.”
Only 10 years back in 2009, there was another epidemic of H1N1 influenza. It didn’t last long – approximately 2-3 months after which it subsided on its own. What actually happened is that “herd immunity” developed after the infection. Similarly, our best bet for this COVID19 should be, that herd immunity develops as fast as possible in our country.
Although she was unable to return to China, after the unprecedented quarantine and lockdown of the country, yet she continued to teach unhindered with the help of various applications online. “The college reopened on February 24 as scheduled and I was on the first lecture at 9 a.m. Beijing Time, which was 6.30 a.m. IST,” she said. This is the zeal with which she is inspiring her students in China.