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Bihar Districts Affected by Black Fever

ndence era, the parasite came to the state from Assam via West Bengal.

"But things have changed and Bihar is now the source of all kala azar cases. People migrate from here to Delhi or West Bengal and spread the disease there, too," he added.

He said the disease came to Bihar in late 1930s and was there till 1950 and later disappeared from the state due to malaria eradication efforts. "But it came back in 1970 and the mortality rate was 30 percent."

"Now the disease is spreading from west Bihar to east Uttar Pradesh, east Bihar to north of Bengal and north Bihar to Nepal," Jha added.

Kala azar currently occurs in 62 countries, primarily in the developing world. Around 90 percent of world cases are found in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sudan and northeast Brazil. Experts say over 60 percent of the cases in the five states are found in Bihar alone.

Treatment of the disease currently costs over Rs.12,000.

"When our income is less than Rs.1,500 a month, how can we afford treatment that costs us over Rs.12,000. Since it is affecting hundreds of thousands of people in the state, the government must give free treatment," said Sevati Devi, a resident of Bishonpur, a village around 15 km from this rural town.

Like Sevati, there are thousands who seek government intervention to fight the disease.

"For the last two months, I have been suffering but the district healthcare service providers could not diagnose the problem. They neither have the expertise nor infrastructure to cure patients," said Mohammad Idris from Motihari district.

"The socio-economic status of these villagers does not allow them treatment. Here the government needs to step in. At least the government must club the intervention programme with the revised tuberculosis programme in the state," said Shyam Sunder, who runs a kala azar research centre and a clinic in Muzaffarpur.

However, he was opt
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