Kala azar now part of Bihar school text book

August 2nd, 2011 - 12:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Patna, Aug 2 (IANS) The tiny sand fly that causes the deadly kala azar, a parasitic disease that affects hundreds every year and can cause death, is now to be made part of school text books in Bihar to create awareness about the fly.

The Bihar government has decided to introduce a new chapter on kala azar in government-run schools across the state.

The Bihar state Health Society executive director Sanjay Kumar said a Patna-based NGO has been asked to prepare a text on kala azar for inclusion in text books. “It is a part of the strategy to create awareness among school students about kala azar,” Kumar told IANS here.

Kumar said that for the first time a chapter on the ‘tiny sand fly’ will be part of school text books in the state.

According to health department officials, nearly 12,000 cases have been reported in different hospitals in 31 of the 38 affected districts and officially 32 people have died due to it till date this year.

Last year, at least 87 people died and over 20,000 people were affected by kala azar in Bihar despite efforts by government and non-government organisations to eradicate the killer disease, medically known as Visceral Leishmaniasis.

The state government has launched a massive anti-kala azar strategy to contain the spread of sand fly vectors in 16 of the seriously affected districts.

The government had constituted a task force headed by former central health minister and BJP leader C.P. Thakur to work for eradication of the disease.

The sand fly which transmits the disease multiplies in the cow dung that villagers use liberally to plaster their shanties or as cow dung cakes for fuel.

The flies survive on sap in banana and bamboo groves and on the decomposed cow dung heaps. They make their home in the straw thatches of houses.

The disease is characterised by fever, weight loss, swelling of the spleen and liver and can lead to cardiovascular complications resulting in death.

Experts say poor living standards and unhygienic conditions make members of the Mushahar community of Dalits an easy prey to the disease.

Kala azar is also known as the poor man’s disease because it affects the poorest of the poor.

Many of the worst kala azar-hit areas of Bihar are the northern districts of Vaishali, Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, Sheohar and East and West Champaran.

Bihar last faced a kala azar epidemic in 1991 when 250,000 cases were reported. In 2000, the numbers were low but started rising from 2003.

The disease occurs in 62 countries, primarily in the developing world. Around 90 percent of world cases are found in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sudan.

(Imran Khan can be contacted at imran.k@ians.in)

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