Rise in malaria cases sparks concern in Kerala
Most cases imported from other states due to large number of migrant workers. Over 300 infections reported last yr
KOCHI: Malaria, which was eradicated from the state decades ago, has made a comeback in Kerala in the past few years. The growing number of malaria cases in Kerala, mostly imported from other states by the large number of migrant workers, is becoming a headache for the health sector.
Over 300 cases of the disease were reported in the state last year alone. However, this number is relatively lower than the 656 cases in 2020. A majority of the cases reported in the state have been imported from various states, said health officials.
Kerala had eradicated malaria back in 1965. Weakening of vector control activities and influx of malaria from other states accelerated the rate of infection of the disease in the state in recent years, they said. “Almost 90-95 percent of the cases in the state are imported. Efforts are on to eradicate malaria totally in the state by 2025. In the past couple of years, we saw a dip in numbers, as travel was limited due to Covid,” said an official with the Directorate of Health Services.
Around 30 malaria cases have already been reported in the state so far this year. “The district surveillance teams are on high alert and are keeping track of the cases among vulnerable communities,” said the official. “Over the past few years, a majority of the cases is being reported among migrant communities, mostly those coming from West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and north-eastern states,” said the official.
According to officials, Kozhikode and Kasaragod remain vulnerable districts. Steps are being taken to declare five districts — Alappuzha, Idukki, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Ernakulam — free of malaria by the end of this year. “Malaria is life-threatening if it is not identified and treated early. In some, the symptoms are exhibited after several months. Malaria that affects the brain (cerebral malaria) has 20 per cent mortality. Also, another concern is that if expecting mothers are infected, the disease will pose a high risk for the baby. The infection can also result in kidney failure,” said Dr Joseph K, physician based in Alappuzha.
An integrated approach has been launched by the Health Department, by setting up special camps for migrants, to screen and keep track of the disease. “An action plan is being prepared to eradicate malaria in Ernakulam. Surveillance in migrant camps has been strengthened and awareness campaigns launched. If anyone shows symptoms akin to malaria, they should seek medical help,” said V Jayasree, Ernakulam District Medical Officer.
Malaria is an acute febrile illness caused by plasmodium parasites, which are spread through bites of infected female anopheles mosquitoes
Symptoms: Fever, headache, body aches, and chills. Usually, symptoms appear 10 to 15 days after an infective mosquito bite