‘Killer’ plasmodium falciparum malaria behind Bareilly fever deaths? 223 patients tested positive

‘Killer’ plasmodium falciparum malaria behind Bareilly fever deaths? 223 patients tested positive

Bareilly: The parasite which causes the most dangerous form of malaria may be to blame for the 38 fever deaths that took place in Bareilly district over the past few weeks. The state rapid response team had, on Monday, detected the presence of plasmodium falciparum (PF) malaria among patients in the district’s Majhgavan block, which has witnessed the most number of casualties. Considered the deadliest form, PF malaria can be fatal if treatment is delayed beyond 24 hours after the onset of clinical symptoms, according to the World Health Organisation. The department has confirmed 223 positive cases of PF and 378 cases of plasmodium vivax (PV) malaria (one of the five species of malaria parasites that commonly infect humans) across the district till September 12 evening. The local team of experts had earlier failed to detect PF malaria in patients.

“Cases of PF are not found in the region. However, if the officials had spotted even one case, they should have considered it to be a health emergency,” said Dr Pramila Gaur, additional director, health, Bareilly division.

According to the WHO, variable clinical features such as fever, chills, headache, muscular aching and weakness, vomiting, coughing, diarrhoea and abdominal pain are seen in PF cases of malaria.

When fever-related deaths were first reported, in the last week of August, the district health department had initially claimed that only PV variant of the disease was to be found. Soon after, a state team found PF cases in Majhgavan block following which chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Vineet Shukla had slammed former district malaria officer P K Jain. In a notice to Jain, Shukla said how reports sent by the former had no mention of PF and hence the department could not diagnose and treat patients accordingly. A day later, UP health minister Sidharth Nath Singh suspended Jain for “carelessness”.

Dr Vikasendu Agarwal, state surveillance officer and leader of the state rapid response team, said, “The district-level team was taking slides and testing it in the laboratory which is a time-consuming process. We started using Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) that gives results in 3 to 10 minutes and we can start treatment of the patients immediately. RDTs proved to be a game changer and we have enough RDTs to confirm if fever patients are suffering from malaria or not. A patient suffering from PF has to undergo three-day treatment while PV patient gets a 14-day long treatment.”

The health department along with ASHA (accredited social health activist) workers are conducting door-to-door survey of houses in the affected villages to identify fever patients.“To minimise breeding of mosquitoes, fogging and larvicidal spraying is also underway. We have reserved 10 beds along with mosquito nets at various hospitals in each block,” said Agarwal.