Public Health Dept says incidences of malaria have come down

Chennai: The Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (DPH&PM) state that they have brought down incidence of malaria to the lowest in Tamilnadu. With 25 April being observed as World Malaria Day, News Today speaks to field experts to know more.

According to the latest data released by the DPH&PM, a total of 177 cases have been recorded in Tamilnadu, of which 111 cases are from Chennai. The officials claim that the count has been brought down and opine that the condition is not as severe as previous years. The count stood at 3,758 in 2018 and 5,449 in 2017.

DPH&PM Director, Dr K Kolandaiswami, said, “It has been controlled in a majority of the districts in Tamilnadu. Chennai, Rameswaram, Kanyakumari, Thoothukudi and Hogenekkal are the last five remaining pockets and plans are on to bring them under the scanner and eradicate malaria totally.”

The changing pattern of housing infrastructure has helped the authorities to prevent the outbreak that deprived the growth of Anopheles mosquito that carries the disease-causing organism.

In addition to indoor spray, if a case is reported, the locality would come under our surveillance for about 12 months, Kolandaiswami added.

On course of action, he said, “At Rameswaram, we eradicate the mosquito with gambusia fish. For other districts, different strategies are being followed depending on the need.”

While he stated that the incidences would shoot up during the rainy season, he assures of bringing down the total cases to 2,500. “Once the population is brought down to below a critical level, the organism loses its ability to spread and cause an outbreak. The goal of a malaria-free State will be achieved by 2023,” the doctor pointed out.

About eradication, WHO South-East Asia, regional director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, in a statement, said, “There should be region-wide advocacy aimed at ensuring malaria remains a core political issue must stay strong. While this is especially important in high and medium burden countries, it is also crucial in countries where sub-national elimination is proving troublesome, and where malaria has, like many diseases before it, become a symbol of exclusion, neglect and marginalisation. Wherever and whenever possible, civil society should make its voice as loud as possible and ensure malaria prevention, control and treatment is prioritised and that high-level commitment to eliminating its burden is retained.”

Experts express apprehension over water scarcity being linked with the phenomenon. Speaking on that, Entomology Research Institute, director in-charge, Gabriel Paulraj, said, “Anopheles mosquitoes thrive in freshwater, so the factor of scarcity may be associated with less incidences.”
When asked about re-emergence, experts opined that it could not be predicted due to multiple factors.

“There is an alternative theory that healthcare experts believe in. In the past few years, dengue has witnessed a spike which implies that Aedes has replaced Anopheles that has led to reduction of malaria,” noted Doctors Association for Social Equality general secretary, Dr Ravindranath.

While he agreed that the burden has reduced as against in the previous years, he alleges that the numbers may not be entirely accurate owing to lapses in maintaining records.

Malaria is a huge burden disease in several countries across the world and it is intense in African countries where more than 2,50,000 children die due to the disease. To bring the fever under control, the Government of Malawi launched the world’s first vaccine ahead of World Malaria Day.
The vaccination, known as RTS,S, will be made available for children up to two years of age; Ghana and Kenya will introduce the vaccine in the coming weeks, it is reported on WHO website.
The pilot programme aims to reach about 3,60,000 children per year across the three countries. Ministries of health will determine where the vaccine will be given; they will focus on areas with moderate-to-high malaria transmission, where the medicine can have the greatest impact, said a statement from World Health Organization (WHO).


Bhavani Prabhakar