As defined by the World Health Organization, Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquito.
In order to know more about Malaria and the current status in Assam, Fit Northeast interviewed Dr Harpal Singh Suri, who is the current Joint Director cum State Programme Officer at the office of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme in Guwahati. Here is the excerpts from the interview:
Fit Northeast: How will you define malaria in short and what are its symptoms?
Dr Harpal Singh Suri: In simple terms, malaria is caused by bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. A single-cell parasite called Plasmodium is carried by the female Anopheles mosquito. When the mosquito bites someone, the parasite Plasmodium Sporozite, which is present in its salivary gland, immediately rushes to its liver, where they start attacking on immune system.
An infected person can start feeling symptoms anywhere from a week to a month after they are bitten. The symptoms can be cold and flu accompanied by fever, shortness of breath, restlessness and vomiting.
Fit Northeast: Is malaria curable or preventable?
Dr Harpal Singh Suri: Yes. It is definitely curable. Death can be prevented by putting the patient into immediate treatment. Early detection and treatment is the only way out and even the most complicated case has a chance to recover under better supervision.
Fit Northeast: What is the status of malaria in Assam in the last few years?
Dr Harpal Singh Suri: In 2016, Assam had malaria cases which numbered in thousands. Then in 2017, there were 5,281 cases. The year 2020 recorded 481 cases along with 2 deaths. As on 7 August 2021 Assam had a number 65 malaria cases with 0 deaths till now. The graph of infection and death due to malaria is going down in the state and this is a very positive sign.
Fit Northeast: Which areas in Assam show comparatively increasing cases of malaria?
In 2016, Assam had malaria cases which numbered in thousands. Then in 2017, there were 5,281 cases. The year 2020 recorded 481 cases along with 2 deaths. As on 7 August 2021 Assam had a number 65 malaria cases with 0 deaths till now.
Dr Harpal Singh Suri: In regard to Assam, there are 5 districts where malaria is maximum. These districts are Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Dima Hasao, Karbi Anglong, Chirang (and Baksa to some extent). Last year, the maximum number of cases was from this area and these 5 districts are the main pockets of malaria. The locations having more number of cases might even vary from these 5 districts. Moreover when we move ahead of Nogaon towards Lanka and Jagigaon, we notice some pockets.
Assam is a category-II state as per the division by the Government of India. If the Annual Parasitic Index is less than 1 at all the sub-centers, it is called category-I. (The API is calculated by number of positive cases of malaria divided by the number of population, multiplied by 1000). But if the API is more than 1, it is called category-II.
In Assam, we have almost 12/13 sub-centres where the API is more than 1.
Fit Northeast: What measures have been taken by the Government to curb the cases of Malaria in the State?
Dr Harpal Singh Suri: The Government is trying its level best by equipping us with manpower, logistics, chloroquine, alternative cleaning technologies laboratory (ACTL) and rapid testing kits.
In every 2 to 3 years, the 'Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria' distributes approximately 21,49,000 mosquito nets among the people. Testing and treatment has been made free of cost in every sub-centre. Long-lasting insecticidal mosquito nets have been prepared, which are treated with Deltamethrin, which is a Parathyroid component used to kill mosquitoes carrying malaria. These types of nets repel the mosquito and if they come in contact with it, they die. The Deltamithrin in stays in the nets up to 3 washes and up to 1 year if the net is not washed for 1 year.
Bio-larvicide plants have been set up where Guppy and Gambusia fishes are reared, which can survive in ponds and water. These fishes eat up the larva, and then there will be no expansion of the family of fishes.
The people are encouraged to take all personnel protective measures like wearing full sleeve shirts and long pants, light coloured cloths (as dark coloured clothes attract more mosquitoes), use window nets and mosquito-proof net.
The Government of India has already started the Integrated Malaria Control Program which aims in making India malaria-free by 2027.
It is very important to understand one thing that there is another thing named 'migrated malaria' which is carried by people who come from malaria dominated states like Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal. It is important to know that some people who travel might be carriers of the germ.