Midnapore, Jan. 18: The people here are praying that the bitter cold subsides, but the district administration is hoping otherwise. Officials want the cold spell to continue so that the mosquitoes that spread malignant malaria cannot breed.
“If the temperature remains below 10°C for another fortnight, the people living in the Belpahari area might not have to suffer from the sometimes-fatal disease this time around. The insects are finding it too cold to breed,” said chief medical officer Mangobinda Mondal.
“Mosquitoes breed at temperatures above 15°C and every insect has a life span of 10 to 12 days. If the present sub-10°C weather continues, not only will the mosquitoes fail to breed, a large number will be destroyed before the end of their life span. We are hoping the disease will spread far less this year,” Mondal added.
Quoting medical reports and a survey on malaria, Mondal said 98 per cent of the victims in five panchayat areas are stricken with the malignant parasite, plasmodium falciparum. “About 7,000 people are carrying the parasite and many among them are unaware as they do not get the fever.”
These carriers are a matter of grave concern as the malignant parasite can be transferred to others by mosquito bites. Officials hope the drop in the number of mosquitoes due to the cold will help them check the spread of the disease this year and provide a break from the annual nightmare.
Vector control efforts by the health department in areas like Kankrajhore, Odolchua, Banspahari, Pachapani and Chakdoba have yielded little result. Activities like random blood sampling and administering special antidote doses to the affected people have not helped much.
The health officials conceded that since the district was cleaved into two, the number of cases recorded in truncated West Midnapore has snowballed to figures larger than that for undivided Midnapore.
Till November 2002, the number of malignant malaria carriers recorded stood at 1,364, of which 1,347 cases were detected in Belpahari. The figure in 2000 was 575 for the undivided district and 420 for Belpahari.
The number of malaria patients has spiralled as steps like cooperating with the adjacent Bankura district, where, too, the disease is a killer, have not been carried out properly as was the decision to distribute medicated mosquito nets.
“It is virtually impossible to carry out any kind of vector-control exercise in Belpahari, which is densely forested and very remote. Moreover, we have failed to convince the people there to use mosquito nets. Even the few medicated nets we distributed in these villages have not been put to use as villagers say they feel claustrophobic sleeping under them,” the chief medical officer pointed out.
He has found an unlikely ally in the battle against malaria in the cold this year. For the past five years, the winter was brief and mild, he complained.