Home >News >India >Managing media to overseeing testing strategy, she does it all

In 2009, public health specialist Dr Daksha Shah headed Mumbai’s epidemiology cell during the swine flu pandemic. In 2016, amid a spike in tuberculosis cases in Mumbai, she was part of the team overseeing efforts to contain the outbreak.

Now once again, the deputy executive health officer of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) is busy engaging with the press, calmly detailing how covid-19 patients are faring and what steps the corporation is taking to contain the pandemic, switching between Marathi, English and Hindi with ease.

“Looking after media management is a large part of what I do," Shah said over the phone.

As a public health professional, a large part of her job is educating the city about the risks.

“There are several misinformation campaigns on social media and we make sure we address all of these and issue corrections. We don’t want to create panic among Mumbaikars, so we publish figures and advisories as required and, at the same time, we try to maintain patient confidentiality."

Shah also oversees planning and coordination of the city’s testing strategy while keeping a tab on the growing number of cases."I coordinate with physicians, mobilise resources, do the data management for the outbreak. I keep a close watch on new cases and generate reports for the public health department and brief the state and seniors.

As of Monday, the city had reported 490 cases of covid-19 with 34 fatalities. Last week, the coronavirus infection reached congested slum clusters such as Worli-Koliwada and Dharavi, potentially putting millions of residents at risk.

“Mumbai is reporting so many cases because we scaled up testing here early," Shah said.

“Besides the five public labs, we brought in private sector labs. We traced every patient’s immediate contacts, we’re also testing asymptomatic contacts. We’re regularly testing hospital staff, doctors and nurses. We’ve introduced home collection of tests—all of this came into the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) guidelines later."

“Covid-19 is a more serious threat because of the number of deaths that have been reported globally," Shah said.

“The H1N1 virus grew weaker after a while (but this isn’t happening with covid-19). The scale of our response is in line with the scale of the threat."

The lockdown has complicated things further, said the MCGM deputy executive health officer.

“With swine flu, there wasn’t a lockdown. Once you impose a lockdown, there are so many other things to handle besides just the health response. We have to make sure people and resources are mobilized as needed."

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