Health officials have confirmed that 75 people have so far succumbed to the malaria epidemic, which is sweeping through the northeastern state of Assam like wildfire. Till date 335,000 people have been infected with the disease.
"So far 75 people have died of cerebral malaria since the disease struck in the state in the beginning of April," Assam Health Minister Bhumidhar Barman said. Assam, which has a population of 26 million, is the only northeastern state to report fatalities although several other northeastern states have reported malaria cases. Lakhimpur district has been the worst hit in Assam with 30 deaths and 150,000 infections.
Assam is facing the maximum deaths since people are visiting quacks and sorcerers to treat the disease. "We are at a loss to find a large number of people still going to quacks and sorcerers to treat a sick person rather than bringing them straight away to a doctor," the health minister said. "The delay in bringing a person to the hospital complicates the illness and is one of the reasons for the fatalities."
Superstitious beliefs, black magic and demonology are the most prevalent mystic beliefs in the tribal areas of the northeastern state and this is affecting the delivery of proper healthcare. "Our health workers are now working overtime in spreading awareness in rural areas not to be wooed by quacks or sorcerers, and instead approach a doctor or come to the hospital when someone is sick," Barman said.
Last year at least 230 people succumbed to malaria. The northeastern states are often referred to as "Malaria Zone" due to the excessive prevalence of the disease, which claims 500 lives each year. Malaria is spread by the bite of anopheles mosquito and some symptoms are fever, body aches and chills.