About 58 per cent of Mumbai’s 19,500 malaria cases recorded since June 1 are concentrated in seven civic wards, said the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Wednesday.
About 33 per cent of the cases this monsoon were recorded in F-South (Sewri), G-South (Mahalaxmi, Byculla) and L (Chembur, Ghatkopar) wards, while 25 per cent of the cases were recorded in E (Reay Road), G-North (Mahim Causeway, Dharavi), K-East (airport, Santacruz) and N (Vikhroli) wards.
The large number of malaria cases in these areas was attributed to the high number of construction sites that house stagnant water, the rising number of slum-dwellers and the presence of dilapidated mills. About 83 per cent of those who tested positive for malaria comprise construction site workers and slum-dwellers.
“It’s not that malaria isn’t affecting other areas. It’s just that it’s much more aggressive in these wards,” said Manisha Mhaiskar, additional municipal commissioner (health).
To tackle this, active surveillance of malaria-hit localities, especially construction sites, has doubled as compared to last year, said Mhaiskar.
“Every year, we test about 50,000 blood smear slides per month. This July, we have already tested 1,00,000,” she said. Controlling breeding of mosquitoes at construction sites is a serious concern. Mumbai has about 2,500 construction sites and 2.5 lakh workers on them. “We will issue health cards to all these workers from next week, so that we can keep track of them. They are an amorphous group and are always on the move,” said Mhaiskar.
Civic health officials also met with several developers on Wednesday to discuss the problem. “They understood how construction sites can lead to an increase in the mosquito population and agreed to participate in our malaria-control efforts,” said Dr Sanjay Oak, director of major civic hospitals.
The BMC also ruled out the link between malaria and heart disease.
Following recent media reports about how coronary blockage and heart disease can be one of the complications caused by malaria, Oak said that he had consulted several cardiologists at KEM Hospital, Parel, and found that there was no empirical evidence to support this claim. “The malarial parasite is not the cause of any clogging in the coronary artery. But heart disease can occur in malaria patients who have conditions such as blood pressure or diabetes,” said Oak. “KEM treats the largest number of fever and malaria patients, and we have not come across a single case where a patient’s heart disease or coronary artery blockage was a direct effect of malaria,” he added.