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Small bite, big trouble

Mosquito Menace: Civic body swings into action as malaria cases rise in Mumbai. From screening all construction labourers to putting up warning signs at chemist shops, Health Department officials are leaving nothing to chance.

mumbai Updated: Jun 12, 2010 00:43 IST
Bhavika Jain & Neha Bhayana

When Dr Ankit Kamble (name changed) moved into KEM Hospital’s hostel at Elphinstone Road on May 20, he was greeted by a throng of mosquitoes. The hostel is a surrounded by construction sites, a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Last week, the 28-year-old resident doctor was down with fever and chills — he had got malaria.

At least four doctors who live in the hostel are being treated for malaria. Every room on the fourth floor has a patient, said another doctor.

“Fortunately, I took chloroquine immediately so I got better soon,” said Kamble.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has identified Elphinstone Road, Byculla, Dadar, Parel, Mahim, Prabhadevi, Matunga, Mankhurd and Kurla as ‘chronic’ malaria spots.

There has been a 20 to 25 per cent rise in malaria cases compared to last year. “This is mainly because of the rise in construction activity, especially in south-central Mumbai,” said Dr Kishore Hargoli, the BMC’s malaria control officer.

Since June 1, 1,509 Mumbaiites have been diagnosed with malaria.


The BMC has decided to screen labourers on the city’s 1,500 construction sites to keep malaria under control. The labourers, most of whom come from backward states like Orissa where malaria is endemic, will be asked to maintain a heath chart as they move from site to site and they will be screened every 15 days.

“These workers are being singled out because construction sites are massive breeding grounds for malaria mosquitoes,” said Executive Health Officer Dr GT Ambe. “The workers move from job to job, from one part of the city to another.” With them, he said, they carry the malaria virus. Last year, 60 per cent of malaria deaths were that of construction labourers.


The BMC has issued notices to builders who failed to keep their sites mosquito-free. The BMC had had made it mandatory for
builders to fumigate their sites.

In 2009, 85,435 cases of malaria were recorded in Maharashtra, 39,659 of them in Mumbai. At least 150 people died of malaria in Mumbai in 2009.

The BMC has also asked agencies like the railways to make sure there are no mosquito breeding grounds on their premises. “We will display boards at chemist shops, asking people to watch out for malaria-like symptoms and to visit a doctor immediately,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar.

The BMC has trained 28 officials to collect the larvae, after which they are tested. The areas where the most anopheles larvae are found will get more attention.

First Published: Jun 12, 2010 00:40 IST