Ten children between one and seven years of age have died within a month due to suspected malaria, and over 70 people were found to be suffering from the disease at Mahuadanr block in Jharkhand’s Latehar district. After 77 of the 253 people screened for the disease tested positive, a malaria epidemic has been declared in Mahuadanr block.
All the children who died were from three villages — nine were Birjias, a primitive tribal group with a population of less than 6,500, according to the 2011 census. The three worst-affected villages are Purandih (six deaths), Adhe and Korgi (two deaths each). All six deaths in Purandih took place between August 16 and 29.
Though Latehar’s civil surgeon Kanhaiya Prasad said there had been only six deaths, The Indian Express has the details of 10, all of whom died at home as people here rarely consult doctors, but visit quacks.
“It began as a fever about a month ago. Within two days, he had dysentery and I took him to a ‘private doctor’. Things improved for a day before worsening again. He started coughing blood. I took him to the Mahuadanr hospital; they gave him a drip and discharged him, saying it was just chest pain. He died the next day,” said Palo Devi, who lives in Adhe. Her youngest son Rohit Kisan, 4, died within five days of first showing symptoms.
Four-year-old Sushmati’s grandfather Ramesh Birjia said she showed similar symptoms and died within five days. All the victims reportedly had bloated abdomens.
The civil surgeon and his team held a health camp at Purandih on Saturday.
Based on a screening performed using Rapid Diagnostic Test kit, 73 were tested positive for Plasmodium falciparum infection, and two each for Plasmodium berghei and mixed protozoan infection.
“We are working on the assumption that it is cerebral malaria. However, we have seen cases that exhibit the symptoms of malaria and even otherwise. There could be a second factor — the people of Purandih drink water from a mountain stream near their village which may have triggered water-borne diseases,” said Prasad.
The people of Adhe and Kongi, too, drink from a stream. “I have sent water sample to Ranchi for testing. I have also requested that all people living in nine villages around Purandih be screened for malaria,” he said.