The word

malaria

was coined to denote intermittent fever believed to be contracted by breathing bad air from the marshes (Latin- Mal = bad, aria = air).

Malaria is one of the oldest infestation known to the mankind and has been referred in ancient writings in Egypt, India & China. Many references to this deadly fever and herbal & magical cures for them are mentioned in the writings of Veda (1,500 - 800 B.C.) and Brahmanya (800 B.C.- 100 A.D) periods. Charak and Shrushta have described tertian and quartan fever. One of the Veda postulates that malaria is carried by mosquitoes (Masakh). Though it was in 1894 that Manson in China put forward the theory that malaria is transmitted from person to person by mosquito, Ronald Ross discovered the oocyte in stomach wall of anopheles mosquito in Secunderabad (in India) in 1897. Malaria is still a

major health problem

not only in India but also in many of the tropical countries where this disease still remains a major cause of morbidity and death, though it has been eradicated from the temperate zone. It affects over 103 endemic countries with combined population of 2.5 billion people and causes 1-3 million deaths worldover every year. It threatens 2200 million people - about 40% of the world population.

India is rightly claimed to be the cradle of modern malaria. Though earliest malarial control activity was initiated in 1901-1902 in Mianmiz, a cantonment near Lahore, the problem of malaria still persists. In 1935, Sinton and Chopra estimated that in the Indian subcontinent at least 100 million cases of malaria were occurring annually out of which nearly 1% die. In 1947, the incidence of malaria was 75 million annually with about 0.8 million deaths. Govt. of India launched National Malaria Control Programme in 1953 & achieved remarkable success and within 5 years the incidence of malaria dropped down to 2 million cases and achieved near eradication status, and by early 1960s these were only 1 lakh malaria cases and no death. However, there were focal outbreaks reported in many states and incidence of malaria started to rise again each year & a revised strategy Modified Plan Of Operation was launched in 1977. During the decade 1984-1994 malaria incidence stabilized to around 2 million cases annually. However in 1994 with emergence of resistant strain of malaria , there was a sudden upsurge in malaria problem in many parts of country including Rajasthan, Gujarat and North-Eastern States mainly Assam, Haryana, West-Bengal. The incidence of malaria in Mumbai has increased from 1000 to 2000 in 1980 to 25,000 to 50,000 per year between 1993-1996. Though incidence of malaria in India has been stabilized around 2.5 million cases per year since 1990 (MHEP) , the mortality rate due to the disease has steadily increased to 1,000 - 2,000 lives annually. However, true number of both incidence and mortality may be anywhere between 5-10 times the official figures.



Contributor Information and Disclosures

M.R.Lokeshwar
Consultant Pediatrician, Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai, India.


First Created : 4/2/2001

References

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