Deficit monsoon lessens malaria cases in Meghalaya

 SHILLONG: A deficit monsoon this year in otherwise rain-ravaged Meghalaya has led to a drastic fall in the cases of malaria, especially in the Garo Hills area of the state, considered one of the 'cradles of mosquitoes' in the world.

"With low rainfall, there has been lesser waterlogging, due to which there has been lesser breeding of mosquitoes," an official in the state health department pointed out.

"There have been fewer cases of malaria this year, one of the reasons being a deficit monsoon," East Garo Hills deputy commissioner Vijay Mantri told TOI. "Only three cases of deaths related to malaria have been reported so far. The cases of casualties are far lesser this year compared to last year," the DC iterated.

Mantri also attributed the lesser cases of malaria to extensive awareness campaigns launched by the district administration. "The main reason for multiple deaths due to malaria in previous years was lack of proper detection," he pointed out.

The DC informed that Rapid Test Kits to detect malaria have been supplied to 925 accredited social health activists (ASHAs), comprising community health workers as part of the National Rural Health Mission. "Medicated mosquito nets have also been distributed," he added.

"Anybody can carry out tests with the help of these kits with just a drop of blood as a sample," he said.

In fact, the deadly and usually fatal falciform malaria, which attacks the brain, has become resistant to the popular drug chloroquine in the Garo Hills, and the illness has now to be tackled with the age-old quinine besides artesunate and arteether groups of drugs.

"Plasmodium falciparum, which is a major parasite, is solely responsible for each malaria-attributable death case. The Garo Hills are categorized as a high-risk zone for drug-resistant malaria," said an official in the state health department.

According to official statistics, Meghalaya accounts for 20 per cent of the malaria cases reported from the northeastern states annually.

The problem is complex along the international borders of the northeast due to poor inter-country coordinated vector control interventions, illiteracy, difficult terrain and poor access to healthcare services.

"Most death cases that were preventable occurred due to complications arising out of late reporting and consequent delayed treatment," a report by an international agency on the malaria scenario in the northeast read.