Despite the fact that eradication of Kala Azar by 2015 looks uncertain, the health minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan is still hopeful of a positive outcome
Dr Harsh Vardhan, union health minister, has formed a core group to plan a detailed course of action to eradicate the dreaded vector-borne disease Kala Azar by 2015.
In 2004, the government had set a target of wiping out the disease by 2008. It was then revised twice, once to 2010 and eventually 2015. With less than a year to go, the newly installed Health Minister reviewed the resources at his disposal and expressed confidence in achieving the objective.
Kala Azar is globally known as Visceral Leishmaniasis, a zoonotic infection whose carrier is the sand fly found in eastern UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. It usually strikes during the monsoon months. It is the second deadliest vector borne disease after malaria. Presently, its incidence is concentrated to about 54 districts, with Bihar the most affected. Ninety percent of visceral leishmaniasis cases occur in 5 countries: Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sudan and Brazil.
The minister has named Dr Ranjit Roy Chaudhury, a leading clinical pharmacologist who headed WHO's Rational Use of Drugs in India program, to coordinate a group of experts and officials which includes former Health Minister, Dr C P Thakur, head of Indian Council of Medical Research; Dr V M Katoch, director general of health services (DGHS); Dr Jagdish Prasad, a specialist in pharmaceuticals; Mrs Kavita Khanna, the head of the National Vector Borne Disease Control Program; Dr A C Dhariwal, the health secretaries of Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, and joint secretary in the union health ministry, Mr Anshu Prakash.
As Kala Azar strikes mainly during the monsoon months, the Minister said there is precious little time to lose. Therefore, he intends to launch the first free treatment drive in selected pockets of Bihar and other states in August. The first meeting of the core group will be held later this week to draw up a plan of action.