A recent spurt in cases of malaria along South Goa’s coastal belt has become a matter of grave concern for tourists, locals and authorities alike.
“Malaria cases in Colva and Benaulim are on the rise. Though these areas do not come under our jurisdiction we extend support to the local agencies and private health sector there to combat the disease. Also statistical data cannot be obtained as most cases are reported to private clinics,” said Urban Health Centre (UHC) health officer, Dr Geeta Kakodkar.
Combating the disease in these coastal villages has become the need of the hour for the authorities considering its adverse effect on tourism, the backbone of Goa’s economy.
While the health authorities assure that there has been no let up in the drive to combat malaria, an outbreak of cases in coastal villages has prompted the Health Protection Agency (HPA), an independent health monitoring body in UK, to draft new guidelines. Contrary to the report by HPA pointing to increased cases of falciparum among infected tourists, local health authorities maintain that there is only an increase in vivax which is considered to be less serious than the life-threatening falciparum.
Meanwhile, a case of falciparum malaria acquired in Goa had been reported to the European Network on Imported Infectious Disease Surveillance (TropNetEurop) in January this year. The report, which relates to a Swedish woman who had spent two weeks in Goa without taking malaria chemoprophylaxis medication, provides more evidence to the continuing risk of falciparum malaria in Goa.
During the 2006-07 winter season, eight cases of falciparum cases among tourists returning from Goa were reported to TropNetEurop.
In December 2006, 13 Europeans, explicitly identified as coming from Goa, were infected with malaria cases according to the report. The cluster of eight cases reported in the winter of 2006-07 coincided with a period of intense rainfall (50 per cent above average) in the Goan and Konkan regions, which had begun in October 2006. However, reports of malaria cases imported from Goa have continued despite changes in the season and the amount of rainfall. Since last winter, five more cases have been reported over a period of several months, including the most recent incident of malaria, stated the report.
In view of an increased risk of malaria transmission, TropNetEurop has been recommending malaria chemoprophylaxis medication to all travelers to Goa since 2007. Visitors may consider using the World Health Organization’s (WHO) type IV prevention method which includes mosquito bite prevention and chemoprophylaxis medicine with atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline, or mefloquine. They may consider traveling with emergency standby treatment. Anyone who becomes unwell while on holiday or shortly after their return should seek immediate medical attention, the report further stated .
Nonetheless, the recent public upheaval against mega housing projects in coastal areas may act as an important measure in fighting the disease in this region.