With all eyes on Covid-19, malaria cases in Mumbai rose in August: BMC data
Even as civic officials are struggling to control the spread of Covid-19 cases, mosquito-borne malaria is now posing another challenge, with a rise in the number of cases to 1,137 in August, compared to 824 in August 2019.
Most cases are being reported from G-South (Worli, Lower Parel, Prabhadevi), G-North (Dharavi, Dadar), M-East (Chembur) and E (Byculla) wards, which have also reported a large number of Covid-19 cases. Last month, for the first time since the outbreak of Covid-19 in March, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) recorded two deaths, where the duo was suffering from a combination of malaria and the coronavirus infection. These two deaths – from G-North and M-East civic wards, which were once hot spots for Covid-19 infection – broke the city’s decade-long record of zero fatalities due to malaria.
Civic officials said fogging in these areas, which also comprise the biggest slums of Mumbai (G-North and M-East), is turning out to be problematic because many have locked their homes and left the city. Rajan Naringrekar, chief of the insecticide department, said, “In slums, people often store water in buckets and tanks. Now, as they have left, the unused water has become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. We can’t break open and fog their houses.”
Due to the lockdown, most people have restricted their movements outside the house, making them an easy prey for mosquitoes from neighbouring breeding grounds. “As the work has come to a halt, the under-construction sites, too, aren’t getting cleaned,” he said.
To prevent an outbreak of malaria, BMC has started a ‘construction drive’ where all construction workers will be examined and sites that are closed down will be inspected. “We have increased door-to-door surveillance in high-risk areas. Also, if anyone tests positive for malaria, we immediately conduct the rapid antigen test to find out if the person has Covid-19,” said Dr Mangala Gomare, BMC’s executive health officer.
Meanwhile, cases of dengue have decreased to 10 from 134 last August. Civic officials expect dengue and leptospirosis cases to surge this month owing to monsoon flooding. In August, 45 leptospirosis, 53 gastroenteritis and 10 hepatitis cases were recorded in Mumbai.
BMC has advised people to take a prophylactic medicine, Doxycycline, for leptospirosis, if they have waded through rainwater. As per BMC, three rounds of surveillance have been conducted in areas that witnessed flooding recently. A total of 671,663 houses have been surveyed and 35,021 adults have been given Doxycycline.
However, activists have criticised the civic body for delaying monsoon preparations due to Covid-19. Jitendra Tandel from non-profit Rugna Kalyan Seva Samajik Sanstha said, “Every year, a large chunk of malaria cases are reported from slums like Dharavi and Govandi. Despite this, BMC didn’t fog these areas this year.”