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About Kala Azar

Context:

Eleven districts of Bengal reported at least 65 cases of black fever or ‘Kala-Azar disease in the last couple of weeks, a senior official of the health department said, based on state-administered surveillance.

Relevance:

GS III- Health, Prelims

About Kala Azar

  • Kala-azar is a slow progressing indigenous disease caused by a protozoan parasite of genus Leishmania.
  • In India Leishmania donovani is the only parasite causing this disease.
  • The Kala-azar is endemic to the Indian subcontinent in 119 districts in four countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal).
  • This disease is the second-largest parasitic killer in the world. Elimination is defined as reducing the annual incidence of Kala Azar (KA) to less than 1 case per 10,000 people at the sub-district level.
  • It is a neglected tropical disease affecting almost 100 countries.
  • Neglected tropical diseases are a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries.
There are three types of leishmaniasis
  • Visceral leishmaniasis, which affects multiple organs and is the most serious form of the disease.
  • Cutaneous leishmaniasis, which causes skin sores and is the most common form.
  • Mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, which causes skin and mucosal lesions.

The Visceral leishmaniasis, which is commonly known as Kala-azar in India, is fatal in over 95% of the cases, if left untreated.

Symptoms of Kala azar
  • It is associated with fever, loss of appetite (anorexia), fatigue, enlargement of the liver, spleen and nodes and suppression of the bone marrow.
  • It also increases the risk of other secondary infections.
Diagnosing Kala azar
  • The first oral drug found to be effective for treating kala-azar is miltefosine.
  • The most common method of diagnosing kala azar is by dipstick testing. However, this method is highly problematic.

Where has kala-azar been detected in India?

  • In West Bengal, the districts where the maximum number of cases were registered include Darjeeling, Malda, Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur and Kalimpong.
  • The districts of Birbhum, Bankura, Purulia, and Murshidabad have also reported a few cases, while none have been detected in Kolkata yet.
  • The disease is endemic in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
  • An estimated 165.4 million people are at risk, according to data from the National Centre for Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NCVBDC).
  • In the country as a whole, there has been a significant decline in cases over the years.
  • In 2014, around 9,200 cases were reported while in 2021 the number fell to 1,276 cases.

What does the treatment include?

  • Anti-leishmanial medicines are available for treatment.
  • Vector control is also recommended by the WHO, which means reducing or interrupting the transmission of disease by decreasing the number of sandflies in surroundings through insecticide spray, use of insecticide-treated nets, etc.
  • The government aimed to eliminate the disease in India by 2015, but that deadline was missed.
  • However, the number of cases has been brought down significantly through the National Kala-Azar Elimination Programme.
  • Medicines, insecticides and technical support were given by the central government, while state governments provided for costs involved in implementation.
  • The program was implemented through State/District Malaria Control Offices and the primary health care system.

-Source: Indian Express


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