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Times Of India
11 january 2013
New Delhi, India.

India will soon revise its malaria mortality figures, with the new estimates expected to be at least 20 times more than what the health ministry portrays at present.

A 16–member committee of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), headedby itsformer director general Dr Padam Singh Pradhan, has found that the actual number of malaria deathsin India on an average would be around 40,297 – around 40 times higher than present estimates.

In a first such admission, India’s National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) chief Dr A C Dhariwal told TOI that India’s malaria mortality figure was definitely much higher than what is officially quoted.

He, however, added that the National Institute of Medical Statistics was validating the methodologyused by the Padam Singh committee following which the malaria mortality figureswould be revised. "It will not be 40 times higher as portrayed by theICMRcommittee.Itcould be20–30times more,"Dr Dhariwal said. "At present, the death figures are only those which have been confirmed ascausedby malaria by a lab. We have started collecting new data from the field. The Padam Singh committee’s model is being refined by field level data. The new malaria mortality figures should be available by the end of 2013," he added.

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Dr Pradhan estimates that India records between 30,014 and 48,660 malaria deaths per year. "On an average, 40,297 Indians die of the mosquito–borne disease every year.Overall,the number of malaria cases is 9.75 million," Dr Pradhan had earlier told TOI.

The government has said only 1,023 Indiansdiedof malaria infection in 2010.ALancet study published in 2011, on the other hand, said malaria actually killed an estimated 46,800 Indians in 2010.

The Lancet study estimated "4,800 malaria deaths in children younger than 5 years and 42,000 malaria deaths in those aged 5 years or older" for 2010 as against "19,000 malaria deaths in children younger than 5 years and 87,000 malaria deaths in those aged 5 years or older in 2002".

Dr Pradhan had said the new formula had factored in fever, malaria positivity and fatality rates."Till now,fever rate was not being recorded in the system," an NVBDCP official said.

According to the World Malaria Report 2011, over 70% of India’s population facethe riskof malaria infection. Around 31 crore people facethe"highest risk"of getting infected. India has over 10 crore suspected malaria casesbutonly 15.9 lakhcould be confirmed in 2010.

How many people exactly die of malaria in India has been a mystery.

Professor Prabhat Jha, who was part of the Lancet study, said the World Health Organization only counts patients who test positive for malaria in a hospital setting.

"We conducted direct interviewswiththosewhodied of symptoms closely resembling malaria like high fever and shivering but didn’t get a blood test done. We found that 4% of all deaths in India in the age group 1–70 years were due to malaria," Jha had said.

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