This Article is From Jul 02, 2011

Bihar battles Kala Azar, over 6000 cases reported

Muzaffarpur: It has been over one week and five-year-old Pinki has had high fever, diarrhoea and skin rashes - all symptoms of Kala Azar, the second largest parasitic killer after malaria in the world.

Like her, 62 others are also being treated at the government medical college and hospital in Bihar. Till March this year, a phenomenal 6302 cases were reported along with 12 deaths. Bihar accounts for 60% of all Kala Azar cases in India.

Districts like Muzaffarpur, which are already struggling with a massive load of encephalitis cases caused by an unknown virus, are now facing a rush of Kala Azar.

"This is the time to act energetically and intensively otherwise it will lead to a big epidemic," said Dr C P Thakur, Former Union Health Minister.

In 2005, the Bihar government had promised to eliminate Kala Azar in the state by 2010. Instead, its own data shows that cases have shot up significantly over the last two years.

In 2009 there were 21,318 cases of Kala Azar reported from Bihar and in 2010, it rose to 23,084. But these figures may just be the tip of the ice berg as many cases may be going unreported.

"Most of the diseases are vector borne. Surprisingly, the Bihar government has no epidemiologist or entomologist. These facilities must be strengthened," said Dr Prabhat Sinha, Deputy Director, RMRI.

Kala Azar is often described as a poor man's disease which is probably why not much attention is being given to control it. Most people in the affected regions live in mud houses with straw roofs that allow sand flies, carriers of the parasite, to breed easily.

With no prevention measures like insecticides being sprayed regularly, there is little hope of controlling, let alone eliminating, Kala Azar in the state.