Health officials blame migrants for malaria in B'luru

Health officials blame migrants for malaria in B'luru

During a press briefing on malaria organised by the District Health Officer on Monday, medical officers maintained that the city had zero cases of malaria despite contradictory figures from their own Department of Health.

Data provided by the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) last week showed Bengaluru had 433 positive cases of malaria, down from 522 in 2017. While much of the briefing was intended to highlight the city’s official “zero malaria status,” speaking to DH on Monday, Dr T K Sunanda, Vector Borne Disease Control Officer for Bengaluru (Urban), said the 433 positive cases were concerning migrants.

“Bengaluru draws people from all over the country and most of the cases that we have seen are people from outside the city or outside the state. They are migrant workers,” she said, adding that all the positive cases were seeking treatment in private hospitals.

“Many of the cases are from Andhra Pradesh and Hosur. These people do not reside in Bengaluru. There are no cases of indigenous malaria in the city,” she insisted.

When asked how she could be certain of this demographic, Dr Sunanda said that private hospitals are required to report all patients suffering from malaria to the Department of Health. “As soon as a positive case is reported in the hospital, a team is dispatched to verify the case,” she said.

According to Dr K S Prakash, the District Health and Family Welfare officer for the city, the situation is further complicated by hospitals generating false-positive cases by using an outdated testing method.

“The Rapid Diagnostic Test used by many private hospitals is generally regarded as unreliable. The government recommends against their use,” Dr Prakash said, explaining that the government investigation teams use a “blood smear” test instead. “We are unsure of how many people have tested positive because the data we are getting from private hospitals is unclear,” the officer added. 

Small fish to curb mosquito larvae

Planning is underway to release 50,000 fish of the Gambusa and Guppy varieties in 69 waterbodies within the city to cull mosquito larvae in the coming months.

“These fish are available for sale to the general public at a cost of 50 paise for a pair,” Dr T K Sunanda, Vector Borne Disease Control Officer for Bengaluru (Urban), said, adding the purchase of a pair of male and female was enough to breed an adequate number for the task. District officials say three females and two males are required per square foot of water for the fish to be effective against larvae.

Preventive measures

* Use mosquito nets.  

* Mosquitoes breed in fresh water. Ensure water is not stagnant.