Serendipity and After/11

a novel about publishing of a novel

Now the speaker started talking without much of a preamble. He offered no thanks to Guaranteed Cure pharma or anyone else for the matter. I found it strange that none from the company introduced him to us. Nor did he care to introduce himself to us. But it all seemed interesting in an informal way.

“This is the rainy season,” he began, “and this is our season also. We get our clinics full around this time. We get to earn some real money in this season. There is fevers’ galore. But most of what we get are fevers of viral origin. Which virus? You must agree with me it’s flu or influenza virus. In the west they get it in winter, but here we get it in the monsoon.”

Nice intro, I told myself.

“But what’s your experience about this virus? Have you seen any patient dying of it? I want to learn about your first-hand experience.”

One of us raised his hand and said, “Some years ago, a middle-aged man came to my clinic with nasal inflammation, high temperature and that typical malaise related with influenza. I gave him the usual medicine, but he collapsed next morning. And he died on his way to hospital. I think it was due to respiratory failure.”

The speaker seemed pleased with the case history. “Thank you, sir,” he gushed with an enthusiasm, “this is how an influenza patient dies most of the time. Now let me share my experience with you. I had a colleague Dr K. K. Mullick who worked in a Kolkata hospital a decade ago. He lived in hospital quarters. He was struck with influenza. He didn’t care about it much, but malaise was so overpowering that he walked to the hospital and got himself admitted there in the evening. Next morning, we tested his blood and had an X-ray of his chest. The x-ray was all white. He died in the afternoon. The same respiratory failure. How sad — a doctor dying of influenza. You wouldn’t believe since that time I have learnt to see every influenza patient with extra care. And I advise you, friends, you should also take special care of those patients.”

He paused, took a look at all of us and said, “Do any of you have any new take on this influenza thing?”

I said, “This virus is associated with many pandemics in mankind’s history.”

The speaker almost jumped up from his seat. “What a lovely take,” he said looking at me. “The virus is really that much virulent. If you look at history, these pandemics have taken a great toll on our civilization. And they have a pattern. These kind of pandemics happen every 25–30 years. Last time it happened in 2009. You might remember we had a lot of influenza patients that year and many of them died. The virulence of the virus comes down in strength after the pandemic. So we’re relatively in a safe time. Not any of your patients will die now, and you can happily practice away.”

“But what about the vaccine?” one of us shot the question. “Do you prescribe it?”

“You see I practice pediatrics. I have to write it. But from last year’s experience, it has doubtful role. Most patients I administered the vaccine with got the attack.”

“So what’s the rationale?” I asked. “Every year the virus mutates and changes its strain and we need a new vaccine to fight it. Is it a viable option to fight influenza with a new vaccine every year, specially in a country like ours?”

“Right. We physicians are really puzzled by the antigen drift and antibody shrift of the virus But for your information, the WHO finds out this strain twice every year — in February and September. as far as I know. The pharma companies make new vaccines based on this input.”

“Do our pharma companies follow this? They are used to selling the same old vaccine.”

“Right,” he said. “ We as physicians should always check the authenticity of the vaccine we’re writing. These vaccines are not respectable by any standard, but I still hold the opinion that these vaccines can help, if used the right way.

It’s about ten. A doctor was reading his watch.

The speaker took the hint and looked at his own watch. “Okay,’ he said, “ Thank you all for your active participation. And thanks to Guaranteed Cure pharma for arranging this session.”

The lady coordinator rushed to us and said, “Your dinner is ready, sir. You have to come with me to the ground floor.”

I was surprised. In most big hotels dinner and drinks are served in a space adjacent to the conference room or hall. May be Novo Tel, being the new 5-star hotel, has its own set of rules.