Experts say infections could be five times higher than the official figures

Flawed method of data collection has raised doubts over the malaria control programme in Mangalore, which records highest incidence of the disease in the State.

While the official figures put the total number of malaria cases in the city in the last five months at 1,485, the community health experts said the actual figure could be five times higher than that. They said the health officials did not have an effective mechanism to record all instances of malaria.

Statistics

According to the statistics provided by the Department of Health and Family Welfare, 1,370 people were found with parasite P.vivax (Plasmodium vivax) and 12 with P.falciparum (Plasmodium falciparum) parasite among a total of 1,485 people who contracted malaria.

Those infected with P.falciparum parasite are said to be in serious condition compared to those infected with the other plasmodium variant.

District figures

In Dakshina Kannada district, 1,669 cases of malaria have been reported. Of them, 1,538 have been found with P.vivax, while 131 cases have been detected with P. falciparum. “This is 35 per cent less than what was reported last year,” said O.R. Srirangappa, District Health and Family Welfare Officer.

The numbers would increase during monsoon, he added.

Dr. Srinivas Kakkilaya, who is involved in raising awareness about prevention of malaria, disputes the official statistics. “The actual number is five times more than what is revealed in the statistics,” he said. The official figures, he said, reflected only the detection at a few testing centres such as the one at the Corporation Building and the Wenlock Hospital. Moreover, the authorities were accepting detections made using peripheral smear examination, which was less sensitive and not including those done under the QBC (Quantitative Buffy Coat) test that were carried out in many private hospitals, he said.

Dr. Kakkilaya said the practice of collecting reports from all hospitals had been stopped now. Similarly, the mobile testing van had also stopped functioning. “The city corporation should have been proactively involved in combating malaria. But nothing is happening,” he said. In the absence of accurate data, the experts feel, the strategies to combat the dreaded disease too could be flawed.

Conceding that there were issues with regard to data collection, Mangalore City Corporation Commissioner K.N. Vijayaprakash said better coordination was needed among various agencies to effectively tackle malaria. “There are several reasons for ineffective implementation,” he said.

Mr. Vijayaprakash said a proposal was being placed before the corporation's council to increase by five times the penalty on the builders who failed to take measures to prevent breeding of mosquitoes. Instructions had been issued to health inspectors to carry out regular testing of malaria and also collect reports from all hospitals. “I will hold a meeting soon to take stock of the preparedness,” he said.