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Homes of rich hosts of malaria

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) faces a tough winter ahead, with all its equipment to control mosquitoes lying inoperative. But, instead of setting its own house in order, the civic body is lashing out at citizens for “allowing mosquitoes to breed” and taking the FIR route if faced with resistance during its drives to detect breeding spots.

The witch-hunt started after a survey by the School of Tropical Medicine — indicating that the parasite that causes malignant malaria, plasmodium falciparum, had started thriving at an alarming rate — and the civic health department’s claim of firmly controlling malaria in the city did not tally with the reality.

According to mayoral council member (health) Pradip Ghosh, malaria cannot be checked in the city unless the upper class changes its mindset. Malaria can only be controlled by destroying the breeding grounds of mosquitoes. Ghosh said the auto-defrost refrigerators and air-conditioners of the affluent are “harbours” of mosquitoes.

Yet, the rich neither allow civic workers to enter their homes and remove the threat nor allow pesticide to be sprayed on their walls, as it leaves stains. “So, I have directed health workers to lodge an FIR if a house-owner does not allow them to carry out the drive to control mosquito larvae,” Ghosh said.

Meanwhile, at the School of Tropical Medicine, where more than 100 blood samples are being tested daily, the incidence of infection with plasmodium falciparum has been pegged as high as 50 per cent.

The CMC, on the other hand, claimed only 6.32 per cent infection was detected in blood samples tested at its malaria clinics.

So far, 16 people have died of malignant malaria in Calcutta. Last year’s toll was 25 till December. Officer on special duty (health) Atanu Mukherjee was reluctant to accept the figure because plasmodium falciparum had not been found in all the victims’ blood samples. He said each malarial death should be supported by a falciparum-positive blood slide.

However, in view of the spurt in malaria, the civic health department has decided to spray larvicide in all medical colleges, hospitals and students’ hostels in the city. Some swing fog machines have been repaired for the job.

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