India on the Verge of Eliminating Malaria
The population of India is over 1.2 billion. It is only second behind China in terms of population, but has some of the poorest living conditions of any country of the world. Open sewages are the perfect breeding ground for malaria carrying mosquitos throughout the country.

The center for disease control reports that malaria is located in all areas throughout the country including major metropolitan cities such as Mumbai and Delhi. According to the World Health Organization, 95 percent of the Indian population live in malaria endemic areas, and 75 percent of all cases of Malaria in South East Asia are reported in India.

Yet, despite the odds, India has been pushing to end malaria, and may be very close to realizing that goal.

According to WHO, India had over 883,00 cases of malaria in 2013. The number was 2 million in the previous years, thus halving the numbers that were recorded throughout the early 2000s. And that trend is continuing.

The Indian National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) has been leading the charge and have been utilizing efficient and successful tactics to combat the spread of malaria. The first and foremost is early case detection and prompt treatment.

Dr. A C Dhariwal, the Director of the NVBDCP, said how, “Through rapid diagnostic tests, artemisinin-based combination therapy, long lasting insecticidal nets and indoor residual spraying, we’ve been able to bring down the rates of malaria and reduce the number of deaths.”

The program also has four phases to end malaria: control, pre-elimination, elimination and prevention of reintroduction. Both treatment strategy and the phase strategy are results of the NVBDCP implementing all the tools the World Health Organization recommended to India to fight malaria.

The country is currently on phase two of pre-elimination and is targeting rural villages and communities where the population is at least 1000 citizens. In order to complete this phase, India has to achieve an annual parasite incident (AP) of less than 1 per 1000 in all districts within all states. Currently India is at 74 percent and steadily climbing.

Many of the people who are carrying out the effort are women. The Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has deployed more than 900,000 female volunteers throughout the country. These women are chosen from their local communities and are trained in administrating early detection and treatment protocols.

If all goes well, India plans to reach the elimination phase by 2017 and completely eradicate malaria by 2030. This would be right on track with world goals of reducing malaria by 90 percent the same year globally. Experts say that to reach the target, all countries must contribute a total of $100 billion to organizations fighting malaria. Key contributors include WHO, the United States, the United Kingdom and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The United States should allocate more aid towards aiding India fight Malaria. India is an ally and a strong economic partner to the U.S. A healthy India means more opportunities for U.S. goods to reach the world’s largest middle class population. That sounds like a healthy investment.

Adnan Khalid

Sources: Center for Disease Control, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, United Nations, WHO 1, WHO 2
Photo: Columbia University Medical Center

Global Health Research Encourages Malaria Prevention in India
The Plasmodium parasite, otherwise known as malaria, carried by the Anopheles mosquito and spread via a bite on the skin has long been an intermittent public health concern for the residents of Northwestern India. However, thanks to some innovative forecasting involving summer sea temperatures of the South Atlantic, public health officials can implement a policy of malaria prevention in India.

Researchers at Michigan State University were able to link colder than usual July sea temperatures of the tropical South Atlantic to heavier than average fall monsoonal rainfall in Northwestern India. How is heavier rainfall associated with malaria outbreaks? When arid to semi-arid climates undergo heavy wet seasons, surface rainfall puddles allow for the breeding of malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquitoes. Prior to these findings, public health officials would have typically had only a month to facilitate a policy of malaria prevention in India before the mosquitoes would reach maturity and begin to infect the populace. Now officials have up to a four-month lead time to take preventative measures, such as indoor insecticide spraying, in order to mitigate the spread of Malaria infection.

In regards to the climate link between cooler July temperatures in the South Atlantic and malaria outbreaks in late October, Ecological Professor Mercedes Pascual noted that “The climate link we have uncovered can be used as an indicator of malaria risk, on the practical side, we hope these findings can be used as part of an early warning system.” Thus, this “early warning system” can allow for a robust policy of malaria prevention in India to be implemented in the months leading up to the outbreak.

Research findings such as this, linking cooler South Atlantic water temperatures to malaria outbreaks in Northwest India is great news regarding global health disease prevention. Furthermore, by having the foresight of knowing when and where the next malaria epidemic is likely to occur, smart measures can be enacted in order to promote malaria prevention in India.

– Brian Turner

Source Science Daily
Photo National Geographic