CHENNAI: The State saw a spike of 25 per cent malaria infections last year compared to 2016, according to health department’s official data. A total of 5,449 malaria cases were reported last year while in 2016 the number was just 4,341.
Chennai reported a big share at a total 3,895 malaria cases. Department officials said the increase in malaria cases was due to shifting of focus on measures targeted to control dengue following the widespread disease in the State last year.
“Last year, we shifted our focus to dengue control, as there was an outbreak. So, there was slight increase in malaria cases. We will now shift our focus to malaria again,” said K Kolandaswamy, Director of Public Health.
Out of the 32 districts in the State, 23 are declared as malaria-free. Districts where no malaria cases are reported in a year are generally declared as malaria-free. The remaining nine districts are Chennai, Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Nagapattinam, Dharmapuri, Ramanathapuram, Thoothukudi, Kumari and Pudukottai.
As per the National Framework for Malaria Elimination, the target year for complete elimination of malaria is 2030. “But, the State health department has set 2022 as the target year,” Kolandaswamy. When queried about the huge number of cases in the State’s capital, the official said it was solely because of its population when compared to other districts.
“Also, open wells, floating and migrant population are the challenges here. We are shifting our focus to migrant population surveillance,” he said. However, he claimed that the number of malaria cases in Chennai was less in 2017 when compared to previous year, though he did not provide the exact number for 2016.
All remaining districts which have malaria cases are in final phase of elimination, according to the department.