The good news is that even as the coronavirus is raging like a wildfire throughout the country, which has the third highest caseload of the disease in the world, India’s mortality rate from the pathogen is very low compared to most other places.
The not so good news is that this may be due to the fact that, at some point or other in our lives, many if not most of us may have been exposed to infection from tuberculosis.
Doctors say that because our bodies have had to fight off TB, our immune systems have been boosted to this effect, with the result that we may be less likely to succumb to Covid-19 than people who live in less disease-prone countries.
Like India itself, which faces the threat of invasive neighbours like Pakistan and China and has to strengthen its armed forces to defend itself against enemy incursions, our bodies have had to learn to deal with a host of deadly health hazards apart from TB.
While polio has largely been eradicated, diseases like malaria are still rampant in India, which is also besieged by seasonal ailments such as dengue.
To make matters worse – or should that be better? – our health facilities for the most part are hopelessly inadequate, and in many rural areas totally non-existent, so our bodies have had to train themselves to rely on their own inner resources to combat illness.
And if all this weren’t enough, we’ve added man-made health problems like air and water pollution, and food contamination and adulteration, to the dangers that surround us. Before the pandemic lockdown, air pollution in Indian metros like Delhi and Mumbai was the worst in the world and was likened to smoking 20 cigarettes a day. Untreated industrial effluents and chemical pesticides have poisoned our groundwater with toxic substances, including arsenic.
Our daily food is adulterated and contains harmful additives. Fruit and vegetables are coloured with harmful dyes to make them look fresh, and grain stored in government godowns has officially ‘permissible’ quantities of rat excreta.
With all the baneful things we have to deal with, the coronavirus will just have to stand in queue and await its turn.
Meanwhile bring on the arsenic. And don’t forget the rat poo.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.