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DNA India
08 June 2010
By Linah Baliga
Mumbai, India

Stung by the fact that 60% of malarial deaths in the city last year were due to late diagnosis, as patients medicated themselves for fever instead of visiting a doctor, the civic body is taking no chances this time. And who better to rope in to ensure victims reach hospitals in time than the chemists.

With intermittent rains already lashing the city, chemist shops and medical stores will soon display posters and information education and communication (IEC) department boards advising people on how to combat the disease.

“Many patients from the lower socio–economic class go to chemists and self–medicate for fever. Most of the malaria fatalities last year were a result of this, as it was too late by the time they reached hospitals,”said Dr GT Ambe, executive health officer.

“Chemist shops will display a public health message stating that those who are running a fever should go to a municipal or a private hospital immediately, instead of self–medicating. This is a part of our pre–monsoon preparedness against malaria, aimed at ensuring the fever is detected early,”said Manisha Mhaiskar, additional municipal commissioner.

Mhaiskar said that the civic body’s intention is to intervene in the 20–day cycle, when the mosquito bites, and when malaria is actually detected. “The last point of intervention will be surveillance of construction workers. Our team will collect their blood samples every fortnight,”she said.

In 2009, Mumbai accounted for 70% of the state’s malaria deaths. The 198 deaths recorded last year, were the highest in the last five years. This year, 20 cases of malaria have been detected, and 359 probable cases have been recorded since June 1. Two deaths have occurred in the past week.

In the third week of June, the BMC will sensitise doctors in slums. They will be trained to follow protocol on classical symptoms of malaria. “Health post doctors will meet private practitioners in the area and give them telephone numbers of the surveillance investigators who will come to collect blood samples of suspected patients,”said Ambe.

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