Malaria Cases on the Rise

Country braces for triple whammy

Mohammad Al Amin

18 July, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Malaria cases have been rising in the country again for the last couple of months, posting a 34 percent increase in the May-June period than the corresponding period of the last year.

The spike in malaria cases came at a time when the country is battling a deadly surge in both deaths and infections from coronavirus coupled with a dengue outbreak.

According to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), although overall malaria cases for January to June are 4 percent fewer than that of the same period of 2020, the malaria cases increased drastically since the start of the malaria peak season (May onward).

It said three out of five malaria endemic districts from Chattogram division (Chattogram, Bandarban and Cox’s Bazar) reported higher number of cases during this period compared to the same period of last year.

Bandarban is the most endemic area. Till June this year, 75 percent of the total cases (1,522 out of 2017) of the country have been reported from Bandarban.

“The monsoon is the peak season for malaria disease. The malaria cases are on the rise in the country and the trend may continue during the rainy season if people don’t remain alert and destroy the breeding grounds for the vector,” Dr Afsana Alamgir Khan, deputy programme manager (Malaria & Aedes Transmitted Disease) of the DGHS, told the Daily Sun.

DGHS said the malaria cases have increased in Chattogram hill tracts -- Bandabarn, Rangamati and Khagrachhari districts -- alarmingly than other malaria-prone districts of the country in May and June.

“Some 1,585 malaria cases were detected and five of them died in May and June this year. Of the total malaria cases, 90-95 percent was detected only in Bandarban, Khagrachhari and Rangamati districts. Some 1,215 cases were detected in Bandarban, 236 in Rangamati and 37 in Khagrachhari districts in the last couple of months,” Prof Dr Robed Amin, spokesperson for the DGHS, said on July 14.  According to the DGHS, 1,262 malaria infections were detected and three patients died in the country in June while 323 cases were detected in the month of May.

Robed Amin also cautioned travellers to avoid the three hill districts due to the rising malaria cases there.

The DGHS data said 2017 malaria cases have been detected from January to June in 2021. The number was 2109 in 2020 and 3,078 in 2019. On the other hand, 1,585 cases were detected in May-June in 2021 compared to 1,179 cases in 2020 and 2,312 cases in 2019.

Sources at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said the malaria cases have been reduced in the country comparatively than in the past as the government has been implementing the National Malaria Elimination Program (NMEP) in a bid to eliminate the disease from Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh implemented its National Strategic Plan 2017-2021 to ensure it is free from malaria by the year of 2030. Now, another National Strategic Plan 2021-2025 has been taken to achieve the goal of eliminating malaria from the country,” Afsana Alamgir said.

The government has set a target to totally eradicate malaria by 2030. According to the plan, four districts will be free of malaria by 2021, 51 others in 2023, four districts of Sylhet division, Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar will be malaria-free by 2025, and the disease will be eliminated from the three hill tract districts by 2030.

According to the DGHS, out of 64 districts, malaria is endemic in 72 upazilas of 13 districts with variable transmission potentials. The 13 districts are Kurigram, Sherpur, Mymensingh, Netrokona, Sunamganj, Sylhet, Moulvibazar, Habiganj, Khagrachhari, Rangamati, Chattogram, Bandarban and Cox’s Bazar. All of them are bordering districts.

The DGHS said Bangladesh saw a fall in the number of cases by 85 percent (6,130) in 2020 while it was 39,719 in 2015. And the country earlier had seen a fall in the incidence of malaria cases by 93 percent -- from 84,690 cases in 2008 to 6,130 in 2020.

Overall, there are 93 percent and 94 percent reduction in morbidity and mortality respectively in 2020, compared to 2008. On the other hand, some 99 percent case reduction has been achieved in eight elimination-targeted districts of Sylhet and Mymensingh zones during the same period.

Afsana Alamgir said, “Eliminating malaria is not an easy task, it’s very complicated. We declare a district malaria-free when no indigenous cases are reported three years in a row.”

According to the health ministry, the National Malaria Elimination Program has developed the National Strategic Plan for Malaria Elimination in Bangladesh 2021- 2025.

The country aims to eliminate malaria in 10 ‘less endemic’ districts by 2025 while is accelerating control efforts in ‘more endemic areas’. After 2025, it is expected that all areas will either be targeted for elimination or for prevention of reintroduction so that by 2030 Bangladesh will be malaria-free.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Malaria is caused by plasmodium parasites. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes, called "malaria vectors." Vector control is the main way to prevent and reduce malaria transmission.

Symptoms are malaria is an acute febrile illness. In a non-immune individual, symptoms usually appear 10-15 days after the infective mosquito bites. If not treated within 24 hours, plasmodium falciparum malaria can progress to severe illness, often leading to death.