7/2/2012 11:30:00 AM

The challenge of tackling Kala Azar in north-eastern India

India is one of the countries worst hit by Kala Azar, or visceral leishmaniasis, a potentially fatal disease transmitted by sandflies. Within the country, the north-eastern state of Bihar accounts for 90% of cases and politicians and health officials are currently debating how best to tackle the disease. In 2006, the Indian Health Ministry extended the National Vector Borne Disease Control Program for Kala Azar to 33 districts of Bihar, but there is still concern about the availability of drugs in affected areas, the use of funds allocated to drugs and the official target date for the elimination of the disease. The initial target was 2010, but this has now been put back to 2015.
According to The Telegraph over 21,000 cases of Kala Azar were reported in Bihar in 2009, with the figures rising to 23,000 in 2010. Senior health officials have commented that the increase is due to erratic supply of drugs from private companies. Procedures to reach an agreement with a specialized United Nations Agency in order to stabilize supply are underway.

“In addition to the key issue of supply of therapeutic drugs; vector control remains an important component of leishmaniasis management in many areas and interventions such as indoor residual spraying and insecticide treated bed nets can be highly effective against endophilic sandfly vectors of the disease”, explains Justin McBeath, Market Segment Manager, Vector Control, Bayer.