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Malaria Claims 25 Lives in Assam

The Assam government Tuesday sounded an alert following a malaria epidemic that has claimed at least 25 lives// and affected about 10,000 people.

"Doctors and paramedics have been put on alert across Assam with medical teams, including mobile units, fanning out to vulnerable areas to check the spread of malaria," Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told journalists.

Eight of Assam's 29 districts have been hit by the mosquito-borne disease.

"Between January and April, some 25 people have died of malaria and 9,721 people tested positive for the disease in the same period," the minister said. Unofficial reports put the death toll at around 40.

Experts say an early monsoon has caused the outbreak of malaria.

"The situation is well under control and compared to last year, the epidemic is not alarming. But we are not taking any chances," Sarma said. Some 304 people died of malaria last year.

"The casualties are less this year as we have taken a series of anti-malaria drives in the state by spraying disinfectants and fumigation to kill mosquitoes," he said.

Doctor's say the initial symptoms of malaria are high fever and cold, and at times loose motions and stomach pain as well.

"Villagers often bring patients to hospitals when chances of survival are very remote. There is still a great deal of ignorance about the fatal consequences of malaria," Sarma said.

The northeast is a known "malaria zone" with the disease claiming an estimated 500 lives annually.

Government authorities are worried the disease might spread among hundreds of Indian troops deployed along the Indo-Bhutan border for counter-insurgency operations.

"We are providing soldiers with specially designed medicated mosquito nets and insect repellents as a precaution against malaria," an army commander said.

In the last five years, at least 50 army and paramilitary s oldiers in Assam have died of the disease.

Source-IANS/V
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