Kala-azar to get the boot

Ranchi: The state health department is hoping to eradicate kala-azar or visceral leishmaniasis, the deadly vector-borne parasitic disease accompanied by prolonged high fever and swelling of the liver or spleen, from Jharkhand by 2018-end.

Last year, the state recorded 1,358 cases of kala-azar in four Santhal Pargana districts Sahebganj, Godda, Pakur and Dumka. In the first two months of 2017, 190 cases were reported. Compared to this, in the same period this year, 83 cases have been reported, said a source in the state vector-borne disease cell, indicating the decline was significant.

Talking to this paper on Monday, state malaria officer V.N. Khanna said they set a target of 2018-end for total eradication of kala-azar that is spread by the bite of the female sandfly.

"Elimination tag can be earned if 1 or less than one case if reported per 10,000 population. These four districts, our focused area for this campaign, have a population of 26 lakh. For last couple of years, intense campaigns are being run to curb kala-azar. We are optimistic," said he.

Though in 2014, a national programme was launched and a detailed roadmap released by then Union health minister Harsh Vardhan to eradicate kala-azar by 2015, prevalent in 54 districts across India, including 33 in Bihar, 11 in Bengal and four in Jharkhand, the state campaign faced initial manpower and resource crunch.

From 2016, campaigns became regular in the four districts and from last July, a door-to-door survey by the health department's field staff to spread awareness on kala-azar and identify patients became the game-changer.

Under protocol, kala-azar treatment is done only at government hospitals, so if the survey staff recognise symptoms in a patient, they alert the civil surgeon concerned to swiftly start the process of transferring the person to the hospital, Khanna said.

A kala-azar patient must get treatment within 72 hours of detection. If he/she is above 50kg, a special vaccine (MBSome) has to be given 10 times. The medicine isn't available in markets or private hospitals. World Health Organisation (WHO) supplies it.

Praising the survey teams for timely penetration, Khanna said, "In July 2017 alone, we detected 289 cases, highest for that year, followed by 143 in August. Regular surveys and spraying of indoor residual spray in focus areas are on. We engaged 200 multipurpose workers exclusively besides an army of ANMs and regular health officials for this. Every month, review meetings happen to keep the momentum going. By this year-end, Santhal Pargana will be free of kala-azar."

A sandfly is about one-fourth of a mosquito, and thrives in high humidity and vegetation. A sandfly is from 1.5mm to 3.5mm long.


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