Recent surveillance has detected at least 65 cases of black fever or ‘Kala-Azar disease in West Bengal, despite it having been eradicated from West Bengal.
What are the causes of the spread of Kala-azar or Black Fever Disease in tropical developing or underdeveloped countries? Briefly analyze the situation in India.
About Kala-azar or Black Fever Disease
Kala-azar or Visceral Leishmaniasis is a protozoan parasitic disease, spread by sandfly bites.
Sandflies are brown in color and have hairs on their bodies and are infected with the parasite called ‘leishmania donovani’.
The vector sandfly is known to live in cracks and crevices of muddy houses, especially in dark and humid corners.
According to the WHO, there are 3 main forms of leishmaniases of which kala-azar is the most serious form.
WHO also reports that leishmaniasis is also linked to environmental changes such as deforestation, and urbanization.
The disease affects some of the poorest people and is linked to malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing, a weak immune system, and a lack of financial resources.
Those having a weak immune system are also prone to get severely affected.
It is known to be deadly in over 95% of the cases if left untreated.
In 2020, more than 90% of new cases reported to WHO occurred in 10 countries: Brazil, China, Ethiopia, Eritrea, India, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen.
Symptoms of Kala-azar
Irregular bouts of fever over many days, weight loss, enlargement of the spleen and liver, and anemia are some known symptoms.
The skin may become dry, thin, and scaly in patches and hair may be lost.
In people with a light skin tone, grayish discoloration of the skin of hands, feet, abdomen, and face may be seen, that is why the disease is also called “Black fever”.
Treatment of Kala-azar
Leishmaniasis is a treatable and curable disease, which requires an immunocompetent system.
All patients diagnosed require prompt and complete treatment.
Anti-leishmanial medicines are available for treatment.
Vector control: Reducing or interrupting the transmission of disease by decreasing the number of sandflies, through insecticide spray, use of insecticide-treated nets, etc.
Kala-azar in India
The disease is endemic in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.
There is a significant decline in cases over the years, but still, an estimated 165.4 million people are at risk, as per the data from the National Centre for Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NCVBDC).
The National Kala-Azar Elimination Programme has brought down the number of cases significantly.
The program was implemented through State/District Malaria Control Offices and the primary health care system.
Medicines, insecticides, and technical support were given by the central government, while state governments provided for costs involved in implementation.
Source: The Indian Express
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