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Saturday, 11 December, 1999, 23:57 GMT
Malaria ravages Bihar




By South Asia corrrespondent Mike Wooldridge

A serious outbreak of malaria has hit the Indian state of Bihar.

It has affected 18 districts of the state and the health authorities say there have been 72 confirmed deaths over the past two months, while 55 others are yet to be confirmed.

Unofficial figures suggest that hundreds have died over the same period.

While the death figures may be disputed, the authorities acknowledge that there are many suffering from the symptoms of malaria this year in both rural and urban areas across a large swathe of Bihar, India's poorest state.

The director in chief of the state's health services put the figure at about 50,000.

Inconsistent spraying

He also said most of the 72 confirmed deaths were cases of cerebral malaria, a more virulent form of the disease.

Historically, this region of south and central Bihar is one where malaria is endemic. But this outbreak is said to have happened against a background of neglected and inconsistent spraying of mosquitos over several years and a current shortage of anti-malarial drugs.

The state authorities say there are half a million malaria tablets now on their way to Bihar, and a further 1.5 million tablets are expected to be provided by the central government later.

Opposition politicians in Bihar are charging the state government with an ineffective response to what they claim is turning into an epidemic.

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See also:
02 Nov 99 |  Sci/Tech
Researchers map malaria parasite
17 Nov 99 |  Health
Peppermint oil hits mosquito breeding
03 Nov 99 |  Health
WHO drive to combat malaria
17 Jun 99 |  Medical notes
Infectious disease: A guide
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