Visceral leishmaniasis, also known as kala-azar, is a potentially fatal parasitic disease that affects an estimated 50,000 to 90,000 people worldwide each year.
- Most cases occur in Brazil, East Africa, and India, with over 90% of new cases reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2020 occurring in 10 countries: Brazil, China, Ethiopia, Eritrea, India, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen.
- If left untreated, the disease is fatal in over 95% of cases, with symptoms including irregular fever, weight loss, enlarged spleen and liver, and anemia. Kala-azar is one of the top parasitic diseases with both outbreak and mortality potential, with only between 25% to 45% of cases being reported to the WHO.
Decline in Kala-azar Cases in India:
- In India, the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, has expressed his happiness at the declining cases of kala-azar disease. According to data from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), the number of reported kala-azar cases in India has decreased significantly over the past decade. In 2011, there were 9,011 reported cases, which decreased to 3,876 in 2017, and further decreased to 3,170 in 2018. As of September 2020, only 1,743 cases had been reported for the year.
Efforts to Combat Kala-azar:
- The decline in kala-azar cases in India can be attributed to a number of efforts by the government and NGOs to combat the disease. These efforts include:
- Mass Drug Administration (MDA): MDA involves the distribution of antimonial drugs to the entire population at risk in an area, in order to reduce the reservoir of infection and interrupt transmission
- Vector control measures: Vector control measures aim to reduce the population of sandflies, which transmit the disease. These measures include the use of insecticides, the use of insecticide-treated bed nets, and the construction of houses with screened windows and doors.
- Surveillance: Surveillance systems are in place to monitor the occurrence and distribution of kala-azar cases, allowing for early detection and rapid response to outbreaks.
- Health education: Health education campaigns aim to raise awareness about the disease and how to prevent it, including information on how to protect against sandfly bites and how to seek treatment if symptoms arise.
While there has been a significant decline in kala-azar cases in India in recent years, the disease still poses a threat, particularly in areas where the disease is endemic. Continued efforts to implement mass drug administration, vector control measures, surveillance, and health education are crucial in the fight against kala-azar and ensuring that the number of cases continues to decrease.
Written by IAS POINT