The Health Minister at a media briefing yesterday threatened legal action against those whom he termed media `specialists` and certain politicians for `misleading` the public over the heart disease in Badulla.
Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said he would take legal action against those who gave false information relating to the disease to the media.
Minister de Silva was critical of the media for what he called `blowing the issue` out of proportion, and said many patients including the hospital staff were harbouring unnecessary fears about the disease.
`These days, it is the media specialists and media consultants who give the cause and symptoms of a disease even before the case reaches us. We have to listen to them and not to medical experts. In other countries there are media standards and ethics, but not here,` he said.
The Health Minister along with the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Athula Kahandaliyanage and Additional Secretary Dr. Nihal Jayatilake had invited eminent Cardiologists Dr. D.P. Atukorala, Dr. Mitra Kumar, Dr. Viraj Senaratne, Dr. Andrew Ross from the North Carolina University, Dr. Angela Marianz from World Health Organization for the media briefing at the Health Ministry.
`There were media reports that six people had died. But not a single death was reported. The media had killed people for petty sensationalism,` he said.
Taking a swipe at some politicians, he said some politicians had asked the DGHS to close down the Badulla Hospital.
`Some politicians are really stupid. They asked us to close down the hospital. How can you contain a disease by closing down the hospital? I am saddened by their stupidity,` Mr. de Silva said.
Cardiologist Dr. Andrew Ross, who is no stranger to Sri Lanka having left the country 45 years ago, said if the reported disease was indeed myocarditis, several people would have already died.
`This is a milder form of it. I`m impressed with the rapidity of response by the Ministry. They have sent blood samples to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the USA. There was always the possibility of the disease deteriorating to myocarditis, but since it has not happened, it means it will not happen, so there is nothing to worry.
?The unusual concentration of cases must be due to some peculiar form of local phenomena,` he said.
The cardiologists accepted that there was a `problem` in Badulla but that it was not myocarditis, and that the disease-causing agent had not been identified yet.
Cardiologist Dr. Vajira Senaratne said myocarditis usually ended in heart failure. But since no patient had suffered heart failure it meant that the disease was a milder form of it.
Currently only a dozen patients were being treated at the Badulla Hospital, while the rest had been discharged.