National Chemical Laboratory NCL Pune celebrates CSIR Foundation Day

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Pune: National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) celebrated the 79th Foundation Day of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on September 28, 2020. On this occasion a special talk “Are we preparing for the next pandemic(s)?” was delivered by the Chief Guest Prof Priya Abraham, Director ICMR – National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune. An Exhibition was also inaugurated by the chief guest. The program was organized virtually using a digital communication platform.

In her talk Prof Abraham covered the background of pandemics, its spread, dealing with it, care to be taken, need of frontline health workers, role of communities, man-animal interaction, etc. Prof Priya Abraham initiated her talk by saying that the institutions carrying research through scientists should be the vehicles and torch bearers of bringing about awareness and change in our communities. Her topic briefed about the pandemics of the past and some of the national and international efforts that are being made to prepare us for potential future pandemics.

Importance of public health policies

Prof. Abraham emphasized the need for good public health policies and practice in world economies. Active strategies and well-resourced healthcare are the cornerstones to tackle future pandemic responses. She listed some of the deadly pandemics of the past right from the Antonine Plague of the second century AD to the cholera outbreak in 1817-1923, the third plague in 1855 and post 1900 pandemics that caused the deaths of millions of people. Many of them were caused by respiratory pathogens or viruses. Today, these viruses are spreading faster and quicker across countries due to international travel and outbreaks can threaten all of us. We need to respond effectively with least economic damage as a healthy economy is linked to good public health.

Animals play a big role in transmitting the disease or infection. Rise in the international trade of exotic animals for meat is causing its spread. Urbanization with agro-industry fuelled encroachment is also one of the reasons for human-animal conflict. Anticipation, early detection, containment, control and mitigation, elimination, are the keys to eradicate the epidemic. We need to equip health workers with personal protective equipment. Though eradication is much harder to achieve, we need tools in the form of drugs and vaccines to manage the epidemic.

One Health Approach Concept

Prof Abraham spoke on the concept of ‘One Health Approach’ which is gaining popularity. It is a collaborative effort to attain optimal health not only for humans but animals to have a healthy and sustainable environment. Human disease monitored by integrated disease surveillance programs together with animal disease need to be tracked to develop a combined strategic approach. She informed that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is funding ‘One Health Center’ in Nagpur to detect and contain such infections early.

Prof. Abraham said “We need to strengthen our health systems” and appropriate health financing systems must be there. Community engagement is an important tool to cooperate and become frontline in the detection and management of potential epidemics. It builds trust and empowers the community; it can detect and help the containment and protect high risk individuals by implementing community measures. She cautioned against the rapid spread of information like rumor, gossip and unverified news collectively known as ‘infodemic’.

Developing vaccines in months

Prof. Abraham said “Countries need to be thinking about how to develop new vaccines, drugs and rapid diagnostics not in years but in months”. She talked about the six key ways to be prepared to fight the pandemics by investing in a strong and sustainable global health security system, and investing more in a robust, highly capable national public health system that can manage such a challenge. She said the new normal of today is the use of masks, social distancing, frequent washing of hands, coughing etiquettes; avoiding large gatherings compulsorily.

Earlier, Prof. Ashwini Kumar Nangia, Director, CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory gave welcome remarks and spoke about the exemplary work of ICMR-NIV under the leadership of Prof Priya Abraham. After her lecture, she inaugurated National Chemical Laboratory Exhibition hall that showcase the key highlights of the scientific, technological and outreach activities of the laboratory. Finally, council employees who have retired from the CSIR services in the last one year and those who have completed 25 years of continued services in CSIR were felicitated. Meritorious children of staff were also awarded.

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