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Times of India
23 August 2010

400–strong surveillance squad gets their basics wrong in meeting called to improve preparedness
A speaker interacting with the BMC surveillance staff at Kasturba Hospital on Sunday A speaker interacting with the BMC surveillance staff at Kasturba Hospital on Sunday
The malaria surveillance department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is the city’s first line of defence against malaria. Considering members of its 400–strong staff couldn’t even tell Plasmodium Falciparum from Plasmodium Vivax at a meeting on Sunday at Kasturba Hospital, it’s no surprise that Mumbaikars suffered such a malaria–scare this season.

Participants of the training programme organised by the BMC’s health department could not tackle simple questions on the definition of insects, malaria, types of mosquitoes that cause the disease and how to diagnose it.

On Sunday, when the speakers asked participants questions, they were greeted with silence. The few who answered did not have the correct answers. When asked which kind of mosquito spread malaria, one of the participants said ‘aedes’, which actually spreads dengue and not malaria. The participants did not know how to recognise larvae.

The staffers were not certain about the dosage of medicine appropriate for the different kinds of malaria, especially when on follow–ups. They didn’t know that a blood sample should be taken from the ring finger and have been pricking any finger this monsoon.

The surveillance team is supposed to go from house to house and check for incidence and history of the disease and spread awareness on its prevention and medication.

Five health officers from different wards, at the meeting to educate the staff, were concerned with the lack of awareness in the department. Dr G T Ambe, executive health officer, BMC, and a speaker at the function, told Mumbai Mirror, "From their answers, it is clear that we are going to have to educate the personnel. How will they spread the word to the common people if they don’t know the facts themselves?"

Recently, six malaria experts sent to the city by the state government had pointed out that the BMC’s surveillance programme was not up to the mark. Kishore Hargoli, deputy health officer, BMC, said, "We called for this urgent meeting because the follow–up programme did not meet expectations this year. The team has not been trained in a long time and members did not know basic things."

The speakers brought the surveillance team up to speed on what to look out for when surveying households, a little late perhaps. "We are now going to keep tabs on the officers to ensure that they’re doing their job. We have equipped them with basic training and they can’t use it as an excuse any more."

Some of the participants agreed that they were illinformed about malaria. One of them, Sheetal Achrekar said, "We agree that we don’t know enough. But we also have our problems. Each of us is in charge of checking about 30,000 people and it is impossible to reach all of them."

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