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Report malaria from August or go to jail

Ranchi: To ensure malaria doesn't reach epidemic proportions in Jharkhand, the state health department has come up with epic rules and regulations under which any individual or organisation (hospital/clinic) not reporting a suspected case may end up in prison.

The Jharkhand Malaria Prasar Niyantran Niyamwali was notified on Wednesday and will come into force once it is published in the gazette.

State malaria officer Dr V.S. Khanna said they would launch a massive awareness campaign in a day or two and it would continue through the month to facilitate formal implementation of the rules as early as August.

"The Union government asked all states to devise their own rules and regulations to control malaria. The biggest problem in Jharkhand is that many cases go unreported both by individual families and private clinics. Now, everyone will be held accountable," he said.

The upcoming malaria control regulations, Khanna said, made streaming of information to the civil surgeon's office in every district mandatory within 24 hours of detection.

"Alternatively, one can also dial 104 and report the matter to the state health department. If a malaria case goes unreported, the administration is empowered to take action under Section 188 (disobedience of order duly promulgated by a public servant) of the IPC. The penalty is a year in jail or a fine of Rs 200 or both," he warned.

According to state health records, malaria is endemic in 22 districts, but cases have been on the decline in recent times. The National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme's website says in 2014, 1,03,735 malaria cases were reported in Jharkhand, of which 46,448 were caused by the protozoan parasite Plasmodium falciparum and it resulted in eight deaths.

In 2015, 1,04,800 malaria cases were reported, with 54,993 attributed to P. falciparum. The toll was six. In 2016, 1,41,414 cases were reported with 83,232 P. falciparum ones. As many as 15 people died.

Last year, approximately 92,770 cases were reported, but further details was not available.

The regulations also have a to-do list for the district health authorities. Once information about a suspected/confirmed malaria case is received, district officials (from malaria control wing) must survey the area of residence of the said patient. They may visit any house to look for mosquito breeding grounds. Protests, if any, will amount to preventing a government servant from discharging duty, say the regulations, originally written in Hindi.

Khanna said if a suspected case is reported on time, treatment of the patient will be free at any government hospital in the state. On whether expenses would be reimbursed for a patient being treated at a private hospital, he said no. "In such cases, the private hospital can refer the patient to a government heal hub where treatment will be free. All expenses at any private hospital will have to be borne by the individual," he clarified.

If a malaria patient needs to move out of the district or state, he or she will have to take a certificate from the respective civil surgeon/government hospital to facilitate further treatment. "Malaria treatment is free at any government hospital across the country. The certificate will help doctors evaluate the line of treatment in case of patient migration," Khanna explained.

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