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408 Kala-azar Deaths in Bihar, says Minister

PATNA: Bihar minister for health Shakuni Choudhry on Friday informed the state Assembly that 408 people had died of kala-azar and 11,999 were afflicted by the disease in 30 districts of north Bihar and blamed the Centre for not making sufficient quantity of DDT to combat the disease. The minister was replying to a question raised by Navin Kishore Prasad Sinha of the BJP.

He blamed the Centre for not making available sufficient quantity of DDT to combat the deadly disease in the state, and said the government had sprayed DDT in the districts afflicted by kala azar.

The minister said the state government has ordered that DDT should be sprayed on a war-footing in all the districts where the disease had taken serious proportions.

Choudhry said against a demand for 1,900 metric tonnes of DDT during 1999-2000, the Centre supplied just 600 metric tonnes, badly affecting the state government's endeavour to control the disease.

He said the government had urged Union health minister C. P. Thakur to ensure that the Centre should provide cent per cent assistance in combating the disease.

Leader of the Opposition Sushil Kumar Modi challenged the minister's reply and said during past five years, DDT had been sprayed just once as against twice and Centre had even reprimanded the Bihar government for not lifting the quota of DDT supply. (PTI)

For more background on Kala-Azar, read Robert Desowitz' excellent book The Malaria Capers. Below are a couple of quotes from that book about kala azar.

"However, the great unexpected additional bounty of the antimalaria spray program was its effect on kala azar. Considering the natural history of _Phlebotomus argentipes_ it is only natural that DDT would be as effective, or more so, against the sandfly as against the mosquito. _Phlebotomus argentipes_ is a domestic creature...The sandfly is not a strong flyer...And they rested on the walls inside the house, usually not above six feet from the floor." - pg. 64.

"When the spraymen came to kill the malaria-transmitting anopheline mosquitoes, the kala azar-transmitting phlebotomine sandflies got a dose of DDT, too. The DDT was especially effective against them because they tended to rest on the wall mroe often for longer perooids and at more accessible heights than the anophelines. They were also (and still are) exquisitely sensitive to DDT, being killed by concentrations that would be too low to affect the mosquito." - pg. 65.

"By the mid-1950s there were virtually no new cases of kala azar. By 1965 it was a forgotten disease. In 1970 kala azar returned-it was 1940 all over again." - pg. 65.

"Without the containment of DDT the sanfly population proliferated to its former great numbers. In 1969 or 1970 - no one is certain of the exact date - the inevitable came to pass. In the village of Vaishali, people began dying of kala azar." - pg. 66.

Desowitz, Robert. 1991. The Malaria Capers. W.W. Norton. 288 pp. ISBN 0-393-03013-X
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