How human migration spreads malaria to new areas
understanding the dynamics of human migration is essential to prevent spread of malaria to new areas, according to a study published in the December 2004 issue of Current Science (Vol 87, No 12). Researchers from the Malaria Research Centre in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh cite the example of the malaria epidemic that erupted in April 2003 in the district to support the hypothesis. Fourteen families in Raipura village contracted malaria even though the climate of the village was unsuitable for the spread of the disease. Only two cases had been reported in this area since 1999.
The researchers found the affected people had gone to forests in Panna district in March to collect the mahua flowers used to make liquor. These families stayed there for three weeks and within two weeks of returning, 39 of them developed fever. Two of the affected died.
The scientists collected blood smears from the affected families and also from their neighbours (who had not gone to Panna). Blood samples were also collected from villages in Panna district, which has a high incidence of malaria as the climatic conditions are conducive to the growth and spread of mosquitoes.
The results showed cases of both falciparum (31 cases) and vivax malaria (6) were found among the affected people in Jabalpur district. In Panna district, of the 244 fever cases, 155 turned out to be due to malaria, of which 76 per cent were falciparum malaria.
In Jabalpur district, though the neighbours were not affected initially, within six months six cases of malaria were reported.
The researchers suggest that ensuring that there is awareness about the problem can control spread of the disease. One of the ways to do this is to ensure that migrant labourers take preventive medicines before they go out to endemic areas.
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