Medical experts have stressed the importance of malaria patients completing their treatment.
Dr Kishore Hargoli, who heads malaria surveillance in Mumbai, said drug adherence is as important as early diagnosis. “After taking two to three doses of chloroquine, the fever subsides. Many people think they are cured and stop taking the medicine. This false sense of security is very dangerous as 50 per cent of the parasite remains in the body,” he said. “You can suffer a relapse and become a carrier of the parasite. This increases the parasitic load in society.”
The parasitic load — caused by incomplete treatment and migration of construction workers from malaria-endemic states such as Orissa and West Bengal contributes to the rapid spread of malaria. When a mosquito bites a carrier and then bites someone else, he or she can get infected with the disease.
Doctors said citizens must be alert about malaria just the way they were about swine flu. When the H1N1 virus hit Mumbai last year, people hid behind masks and stocked up on hand sanitisers. Everyone with the slightest fever or cold would visit a hospital, asking doctors to check if they had swine flu.
“Consult a doctor the moment you feel unwell. Just like people asked doctors whether they had swine flu, they should ask doctors to rule out malaria,” said Hargoli. “Don’t simply treat the fever as a viral flu and self-medicate.”
Epidemiologist Dr R.R. Shinde said Mumbai residents should view malaria-control as their responsibility. “We became nearly polio-free because there was a demand for polio immunisation. People need to ensure that water does not stagnate anywhere to prevent mosquito breeding,” he said.
“Due to shortage of water, people in slums and chawls regularly collect it in drums that are often not covered. This needs to stop because mosquitoes breed in stagnant water,” said Shinde, who heads the preventive and social medicine department at KEM Hospital.