A civic worker carries out fumigation in a narrow lane in Dharavi
MUMBAI: Malaria has claimed two lives ending the city’s short-lived streak of zero casualties caused by the mosquito-borne disease. In 2019, Mumbai, for the first time in a decade, had zero malaria deaths despite reporting over 4,110 cases.
In Maharashtra, Mumbai and the tribal-populated Gadchiroli currently account for 83% of the malaria cases, followed by Thane and Nagpur.
Experts had cautioned against the disruption of anti-malarial activities due to Covid-19 and how that could set back the small victories against the disease in decades. In Mumbai, malaria cases have more than doubled between the months of June (328) and July (872), partly due to incessant rainfall on several days. About 29% of the state’s malaria cases are in Mumbai.
BMC officials acknowledged that there was a marginal jump. “There are a few suspected malaria deaths which the review committee are yet to audit. We are seeing some increase in cases and efforts are on to bring them under control,” said Dr Mangala Gomare, executive health officer, BMC. The cases are largely being detected from south and central Mumbai wards.
However, the city’s overall malaria incidence between January and July-1,558-is lower compared to the corresponding period last year when 1,719 cases were reported.
Malaria casualties had dropped to single digits in 2017, when there were six deaths and 6,019 cases. That year also marked Mumbai’s entry into the elimination phase. In 2018, malaria deaths further fell to three, and in 2019, there were none.
The situation is grim in Gadchiroli, where cases have increased four-fold to 3,150. Last year, between January and July, 765 cases were reported. A micro plan has been drawn up to tackle the surge, which involves screening the entire population under five primary health centres that have been reporting majority of the cases. A wider spread can be worrying in the district as plasmodium falciparum, a variant known to cause severe malaria, is predominant there. In fact, of the 3,150 cases reported this year, 2,912 (92%) are of falciparum. In comparison, only 2% cases in Mumbai are of falciparum.
“We have begun screening for asymptomatic carriers and will ensure they finish their three-day treatment course. Surveillance and vector-control activities are a big challenge there as people live near their rice fields in the sowing season,” said state entomologist Dr Mahendra Jagtap, adding that Gadchiroli district has recorded two confirmed and two suspected malaria deaths.