India’s kala-azar cases declined 98.7% since 2007: Health ministry

Around 99.8% endemic blocks in India have achieved elimination status, says Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya

By Preetha Banerjee
Published: Friday 06 January 2023
India’s Kala-azar cases declined 98.7% since 2007: Health ministry
Photo: iStock Photo: iStock

Kala-azar cases in India fell to 834 in 2022 from 44,533 in 2007 — a 98.7 per cent decline, the Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said January 4, 2023.

As many as 632 endemic blocks (99.8 per cent) spread across Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal have received elimination status (less than one case per 10,000), the minister added. He was chairing a high-level review meeting on the status of the disease in these four endemic states.

Only one block (Littipara) of Pakur district, Jharkhand is in the endemic category (1.23 cases / 10,000 population), news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) quoted Mandaviya as saying.

After malaria, kala-azar is the deadliest parasitic disease in the world. It is one of the three conditions in the disease group called leishmaniasis caused by the protozoa parasite Leishmania. The parasite is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected female phlebotomine sandfly, a tiny 2-3 mm long insect vector, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)

Visceral leishmaniasis or kala-azar is the most serious form of the disease and as of November 2022, about 89 per cent of the global cases were reported from eight countries: Brazil, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan, WHO noted. India contributes 11.5 per cent of total cases reported globally, PTI reported. 

The disease mainly affects poor people in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and is associated with malnutrition and poor housing, population displacement, weak immune system and lack of resources, the United Nations health agency noted.

“India is committed to eliminating Kala-azar or Black Fever from the country by 2023,” the Union health minister said during the meeting.

To this goal, the central government has taken steps such as building of pucca houses through PM-AWAS yojana, rural electrification, testing, treatment and periodic high-level review, incentivising through award distribution, among others, Mandaviya added.

The Centre is supporting the states in active case detection, surveillance, treatment as well as supply of diagnostic kits, medicines, sprays, he noted.

Currently, more than 90 per cent of the Kala-azar cases are contributed by Bihar and Jharkhand, according to PTI. Uttar Pradesh (2019) and West Bengal (2017) states have achieved their elimination targets at the block level, the agency reported.

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