The deaths in a malaria outbreak in Tripura have risen to 41, including 31 children, a Minister said in Agartala on Sunday.

Over 22,000 people have fallen ill in the tribal-dominated mountainous areas of Dhalai, Gomti, Khowai, North Tripura and South Tripura districts.

“At least 41 people, including 31 children, have died and more than 22,000 others have fallen ill since the first week of this month. Of the 22,000 ill people, malaria germ was found in the blood of 3,215 of them,” Tripura Health and Family Welfare Minister Badal Choudhury told reporters.

All the affected people have been admitted to various government hospitals in five districts, he said.

However, sources in the health department said the unofficial tally stands at more than 60 dead and 30,000 ill.

A team of malaria experts from the Union Health and Family Welfare Mled by Awadesh Kumar arrived in Agartala on Sunday to supervise the situation and advise the State government on how to deal with the outbreak.

The Union Ministry will this week send another four-member expert team, led by the regional director for malaria, Satyajit Sen, to study the outbreak of malaria in the State, Mr. Choudhury said.

The Minister along with medical experts has visited the malaria-affected areas several times.

“Several medical teams are working in the disease-affected areas. SOS has been sent to Tripura officials in Guwahati, Kolkata and Delhi to urgently send adequate quantities of medicines,” he said.

Chief Minister Manik Sarkar on Saturday at a series of meetings with doctors, officials and ministers reviewed the situation. He asked his ministers to rush to the malaria-hit areas and stay there till the situation improves.

Leave of all doctors, nurses and health workers has been cancelled. Health officials and field workers are visiting remote villages and making arrangements to bring the malaria-affected people to government hospitals, Mr. Choudhury said.

A helicopter is on standby to ferry doctors and patients in an emergency.

A health department official said that at least 50 health workers, including 26 ASHA (accredited social health activists), 13 ICDS (integrated child development services) and three multi-purpose workers, have been either suspended or will face action for negligence in work.

Experts have advised the government to use second-generation medicines instead of traditional ones to prevent malaria deaths.

All the eight northeastern States besides West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka are highly malaria prone where several hundred of people die every year due to the disease.