In April, Ghatkopar (East) resident Nitesh Augania (18) developed a high fever accompanied by chills every evening. During a routine health surveillance of Savitribai Phule Nagar slum, where Nitesh lives, health officials diagnosed him with malaria. While he recovered after a two-week course of anti-malarial drugs, now it’s his mother Meena (38) who has contracted the disease.
“I feel very weak and have to lie down all day. Malaria is very common in our neighbourhood,” said Meena, at her one-room home adjacent to a sewage drain.
Almost each of the 100 homes in the slum has had a family member suffering from malaria. Presently, at least 10 people in the slum are taking treatment for the disease, said Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) health workers.
A few meters from the Auganias’ home lies the tenement of Narsanna Yamganty. The 56-year-old employee of a private firm came down with fever two weeks ago. He popped paracetamol tablets for a few days, and it was only when a health worker tested him during a surveillance camp that he was diagnosed with malaria. “I missed work for the last 10 days. I have no fever now, but I still feel weak,” he said.
N Ward, in which Ghatkopar (East) and Vidyavihar (East) fall, is among the seven identified by the BMC as chronic malaria zones. At least 55 per cent of Mumbai’s malaria cases from June 1 have come from these seven wards.
In July alone, the N Ward health post recorded 675 cases. “Usually, our ward records 2,000 malaria cases a year. This monsoon, the number of patients has more than doubled,” said Narayan Dhankute, surveillance inspector, N Ward.
This ward alone has 99 active construction sites, which are known to harbour stagnant water in which mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite breed.
Mohammed Shabbir (23), who works on a construction site at Pant Nagar in Ghatkopar (East), has been suffering from malaria for the last two weeks, along with two other co-workers who have since moved to another site. “I missed work for five days as I could not afford to stay away longer than that. I feel weak and have no appetite,” said Shabbir.
“In June, 83 malaria cases were recorded from a locality in Vidyavihar (East), which has a large construction site. Most of the patients were construction workers,” said S.Z. Kadiri, surveillance inspector, N Ward.
“This pattern is common across all malaria-affected wards, not just Ghatkopar. The cases will decrease as soon as the weather turns warmer,” said Dr Sharad Deshmukh, medical health officer, BMC.