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Bihar Districts Affected by Black Fever

Twenty-eight of Bihar's 32 districts are infected with kala azar, the deadly black fever, as poverty, unhygienic lifestyle and government apathy make the disease endemic to the region. //

Experts running kala azar research centres in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and working to develop affordable drugs said the entire Gangetic plains of the state are infected with kala azar.

"It's affecting the poor people in villages who can't afford treatment. The geographic location, poverty, bad hygiene and lack of a definite plan by the government are contributing heavily to the growth of the disease," said T.K. Jha, medical director of one of the two kala azar research centres here.

"Though the government claims that Bihar is home to only 23,000 patients, our estimate is 230,000. The living conditions of villagers are perfect breeding ground for sand flies, the carrier of the disease, and the government seems to be doing almost nothing to improve them," Jha told a visiting IANS correspondent.

Kala azar - medically known as Visceral Leishmaniasis - is a vector-born disease and is characterised by fever, weight loss, swelling of spleen and liver and anaemia that could lead to cardiovascular complications.

The parasite attacks bone marrow and weakens the immune system leading to increased vulnerability to infections and diseases. Black fever is also the second-largest parasitic killer in the world after malaria.

The sand flies multiply in cow-dung that villagers use as fuel or to plaster their shanties with. The flies survive on the sap in banana groves, bamboo stands and decomposed cow-dung and thrive in thatches used to make tiny houses.

Flies that have bitten infected humans also transmit the disease when they bite another person.

Jha, who is the principal investigator of a United Nations Development Programme-WHO project on kala azar, said in the pre-indepe
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