Health Ministry focuses on Kala Azar eradication
Union Health Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan, has set up a core group to sketch a detailed plan of action to wipe out the vector-borne disease Kala Azar by 2015.
In 2004, the government had set a target for eradicating the disease, by 2008. Since then, it has been revised twice to 2010 and finally to 2015. The new governments Health Minister has reviewed the resources at his command and expressed confidence in achieving the target.
Kala Azar, also known as Visceral Leishmaniasis, a zoonotic infection whose carrier is the sand fly found in the eastern UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, usually attacks during the monsoon season. It is the second deadliest vector borne disease after malaria. At present, the disease is prevalent in about 54 districts, with Bihar most affected. Around 90% of visceral leishmaniasis cases occur in 5 countries which include Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sudan and Brazil.
The treatment of this disease is also challenging as patients have developed resistance to Sodium Stibogluconate, a 1920s drug developed through the research of the late Dr U.N. Brahmachari. Now three other drugs are being administered but they lack strong empirical evidence on their success. One of them is generally used for chemotherapy of breast cancer and has grave side-effects.