The malaria menace could be checked if the authorities focus on controlling the outbreak of the disease at construction sites, rather than just its treatment, according to malaria experts.
Speaking at a workshop for medical staff at KEM Hospital, Parel, Dr Neena Valecha, deputy director of the Delhi based National Institute of Malaria Research (NIMR), said that in Mumbai, intensive screening of workers at construction sites would help control malaria to a large extent.
“This kind of screening will help in an early diagnosis of the disease and drastically reduce the transmission of the malarial parasite,” said Valecha.
Presently, Mumbai has at least 2,400 construction sites, according to Dr Ashwani Kumar of the NIMR, who was part of the technical team sent by the Central government last week to survey the malaria situation in the city.
“A construction site is what causes a focal outbreak of malaria. We found mosquito larvae breeding on the 30th storey as well as in the basement. Workers were the first to be infected with the parasite. And of the 1,000 workers on the site, 800 were living in a nearby slum. When they mingled with the local population, it led to a malaria outbreak,” said Kumar.
“With the weather being conducive to mosquito breeding, there is going to be a perennial transmission of the parasite, with a peak during the monsoon months,” he added.
Valecha said that though 300 patients suffering from the milder vivax strain of malaria had died in the country this year, it could not be said that vivax was turning deadlier.
“There is no conclusive evidence to prove that this strain of the parasite has mutated and is now causing serious complications or death. Complications could also arise from co-morbid conditions such as diabetes or hypertension,” said Valecha.
She said while chloroquin still has a 100 per cent cure rate in the vivax strain of the malarial parasite, patients with the falciparum strain need to be treated using quinine or artesemin as it has developed resistance to chloroquin.