36 Die of malaria and Meningitis in Meghalaya

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Shillong, Apr 1 (UNI) At least 36 people have died in Meghalaya due to malaria and Meningococcal Meningitis since March, prompting the health department to rush Rapid Response Teams to affected areas, officials said today.

Of the 36 deaths, 31 people died of malaria in East Garo district, while five succumbed to Meningococcal Meningitis in other parts of the state, Director of Health Services (DHS), Dr KH Lakiang said.

Dr Lakiang said most of the Malaria deaths were reported from Wakchikong, Silchang, Gandual, Chambildram, Nainggre and Mangsang villages in East Garo Hills.

Of the 31 deaths, he said eight were confirmed cases of Plasmodium Falciparum Malaria, other deaths were due to suspected cases of cerebral Malaria.

''Malaria has struck sooner than expected this year. We have sent our medical teams and they are carrying out intensified surveillance, spraying of DDT and awareness programmes in the affected areas,'' Dr. Lakiang told UNI here.

The DHS himself is scheduled to visit the affected areas tomorrow to take stock of the health situation.

Moreover, all the doctors in Community Health Centres, Public Health Centres and even private hospitals have been asked to be on 'high alert' in Garo Hills and to stockpile anti-malarial drugs.

''Our health workers are already on the field with 'rapid diagnostic kits' for instant blood test to detect malaria and to educate the villagers on prevention of spreading of this disease,'' he said.

Dr Lakiang also informed that the Deputy Commissioners of Garo Hills districts are holding routine review meeting with health department officials to help contain the diseases.

Last year, over 230 persons died of the diseases in the state.

The figure was an increase from the previous year's death rate by over 60 per cent. In fact, in 2005 there were just 41 Malaria deaths.

Earlier, the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry had covered Malaria-prone areas in Garo Hills under Geographical Information System (GIS) mapping to provide better transportation and communication facilities.

Terming media reports of Meningococcal Meningitis deaths touching 30 in the state in March as 'baseless and untrue', Dr Lakiang said, ''there were just five reported deaths. 22 are confirmed Meningococcal Meningitis patients in the state, while 94 are suspected to be infected with the disease.'' Similarly, he said, the health department had taken steps to tackle the spread of the diseases by educating the people in the state.

''We have collected blood samples from patients and the same has been sent to Pasteur Institute to verify it,'' he informed, adding that the media should not create a panicky situation in the state.

UNI RRK PL RL KN1628

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