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Death Toll from Malarial Epidemic Raises To 75

According to health officials in Assam the malaria epidemic is continuing to spread with the death toll rising to 75 people and more than 300,000 others have fallen sick//.

The eastern Lakhmipur district has been worst hit by the outbreak with nearly 30 deaths reported and up to 150,000 sick. Cerebral malaria has been detected in other northeastern states but the fatalities have only been reported in tea and resource rich Assam. Health officials in adjoining Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland also reported cases of malaria in their region, but said that it has not assumed an epidemic proportion like in Assam.

The Assamese Health Minister Bhumidhar Barman blamed the high figures on delays in taking sick people to qualified doctors in the state of 26 million people. He said that the delay in bringing a person to the hospital complicates the illness and is one of the main reasons for the fatalities. The minister announced that the health staffs are now working overtime in spreading awareness in rural areas.

The minister urged that people should be vary of quacks or sorcerers trying to influence them and instead approach a doctor or come to the hospital when someone is sick. In major parts of Assam and other northeast Indian states, superstitious beliefs and black magic play a large part in tribal customs.

India's northeast is known as a "malaria belt" with the disease claiming some 500 lives annually. At least 230 people died in Assam last year of malaria, which is caused by a small parasite spread through mosquito bites. The dangerous season in India's northeast lasts three to four months beginning in mid-March. Cerebral malaria is the severest form and can cause seizures, comas and other problems.


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