Letter: Unchecked media spread plague hysteria in West

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The Independent Online
Sir: In his article 'Delhi loses battle to stop spread of plague' (29 September), Tim McGirk says that the plague has spread 'throughout Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa'. This would mean that it has spread to a population size of 500 million.

Latest figures clearly indicate that only 2,000 cases and 50 deaths have been reported so far. Highlighting a case of a disgruntled epidemiologist and using it to comment on the whole public health system in India is short- sighted. If the plague were not under control, people would have died in thousands by now (as happened in early 1920s).

There are a number of shortfalls in the government of India's approach to public health but to respond quickly to a crisis in a country of 900 million is no mean achievement.

The present reaction of a number of foreign countries to screen all flights from India and the cancellation of flights by some airline carriers is a result of the knee-jerk reporting by both newspapers and television. This will result in considerable financial loss to business and the tourism industry in India, as the peak tourist season is about to start.

It is ironic that a report indicating that market capitalisation in the Indian stock market is likely to exceed dollars 300bn has gone unreported, highlighting the tendency of the media to act as 'prophets of doom' for developing countries such as India.

Yours faithfully,


Institute of Development Studies

University of Sussex,

Falmer, East Sussex

30 September

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