Manini Roy (name changed), a 25–year-old banker from Delhi is recovering from malaria. The tropical infectious and mosquito borne disease were perhaps the most unpleasant ten days of her life and could also had been life–threatening if was diagnosed wrongly. Roy is among those fortunate who received proper diagnosis and treatment of the life-threatening disease even as the country continues to grapple with the scourge of Malaria. In 2010, malaria caused 46,800 deaths in India, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) study.
In fact, The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) claims that malaria kills one child every 30 seconds, which are about 3,000 children every day. A whopping 80.5 per cent of the 1.2 billion people in India currently live in malaria prone areas. Not surprisingly, it is considered highly unlikely that the country will meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to combat malaria by 2015.
A high contributing factor for rising malaria cases is emerging chloroquine-resistance especially in case of Plasmodium falciparum, according to experts.
“It has been observed that in subsequent year’s resistant P. falciparum and replacing the susceptible plasmodium population has lead to the further worsening of the situation,” Dr. Verinder Anand, consultant internal medicine at Moolchand Medcity, Delhi laments.
As per the World Malaria Report 2012, South -East Asian region bears the second largest burden of malaria (13 percent), only being next to African region (81 percent). In the South-East Asia region, India shares two-thirds of the burden (66 percent) followed by Myanmar (18 percent) and Indonesia (10 percent) respectively.
Malaria is a vector borne disease usually caused by four species of Plasmodium. In India, the most common and deadliest species is P. falciparum contributing to 52 per cent of the total malaria cases in 2010.
There is more evidence of the seriousness of the problem in India: at present, official figures for malaria in India, available at National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) indicate 1.5–2 million confirmed cases and about 1,000 deaths annually. Of this, 4.2 percent, 32.5 percent and 43.8 percent live in areas of high, moderate and low risk to malaria respectively.
The National Malaria Eradication Programme was launched in 1958. However, the malaria related strategy has undergone various changes since then. Since 2005-06, the malaria prevention and control activities are being implemented as a part of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) under overarching umbrella of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).
While backing the government’s role, Dr. Vaibhav Gupta, consultant gastroenterology and internal medicine at Rockland Hospital, Delhi suggests civic participation as the key in any malaria combat programme.
“The government has done a lot over the years by spraying DDT to combat this deadly disease but the citizens of India are also equally responsible to follow guidelines and precautionary measures to control the growing rate of incidence,” he opines.
Scientists worldwide are making progress on a vaccine, but it is likely to be at least few more years before it will be widely available.
“We would be able to eradicate malaria only if we have a vaccine. Polio mission was successful because of the availability of the vaccine. Hence it is required as of now to develop a vaccine for malaria to halt the mortality rates,” Dr. Gupta at Rockland Hospital concurs.
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