The influx of visitors from the north-eastern regions and States such as Odisha, where malaria is endemic, is a cause for concern to public health officials. The State has been registering a gradual drop in malarial cases since 2010 but it will be several years before the disease is taken off the list of public health problems.
The theme for this year’s World Malaria Day, observed on Saturday, is ‘invest in future.’
Some regions in the State are breeding grounds for the female Anopheles mosquito that causes malaria. Coastal areas such as Rameswaram and Tuticorin, and Chennai, Salem, Edappadi, Dindigul, Erode and Tiruchi, and river-end areas such as Tiruvannamalai, Cheyyar, Kallakurichi and Dharmapuri are prone to malaria.
S. Elango, State president of the Indian Public Health Association, calls for an active surveillance system that will capture all malarial cases. “When a person complains of fever, the blood samples must be examined. The patient must be educated against self-medication. The pharmacist should refer him to the nearest hospital instead of prescribing medicines,” he says.
Public Health Department officials say their concern is drug-resistant malaria and insecticide-resistant malaria. Resistance is due to both improper diagnosis and treatment and lack of vector control.
“In urban areas such as Chennai, problems include not being able to access overhead tanks and carrying out mosquito control programme inside homes. One of the major concerns is when a patient is diagnosed as having plasmodium falciparum that could lead to cerebral malaria,” says Director of Public Health K. Kolandaisamy. “Our training of lab technicians from areas where there is no malaria includes giving them slides that are positive and negative for malaria so that they don’t miss diagnosis. It will be a couple of years before we can say malaria is not a public health problem,” he adds.
Dr. Elango calls for the Mumbai-model of integrated vector management. “When a blue print for a house/building is submitted for approval, the vector control officer should also be given a copy. This is being done in Mumbai, and we should follow suit,” he says.
Other measures include mandating notification of the disease by private hospitals/clinics and encouraging non-governmental organisations to work on malaria control. The government should also allocate funds for research.