"A meeting of peoples’ representatives and health workers was convened and preventive measures have been chalked out,” said Health Minister KK Shylaja.

Kerala man tests positive for Kala-azar spread by sandflies govt on alertFrank Collins via wiki commons
news Health Thursday, June 07, 2018 - 15:35

A 38-year-old man from Villumala tribal area near Kulathupuzha in Kollam has tested positive for Kala azar, also known as black fever. 

Due to severe fatigue and stomach cramps, he was initially hospitalised in Punalur Taluk hospital. Later, he was referred to the Thiruvananthapuram Government Medical College Hospital (MCH). At the Regional Cancer Centre, a bone marrow test was conducted. The results tested positive for Visceral Leishmaniasis (also known as Kala-azar or black fever).

“As a case of kala-azar was reported, a team comprising the Kollam District Medical Officer, District Surveillance Officer, Vector Control Unit and Malaria Unit was rushed to the spot to assess the situation. Also a meeting of peoples’ representatives and health workers was convened and preventive measures have been chalked out,” said Health Minister KK Shylaja.

The Kollam District Medical Officer, Dr VV Shirly told TNM, “Kala-azar is spread by the sandfly. The major preventive measure is to tackle the sandfly. Today, District Vector Control Unit has started spraying the insecticide in houses and surrounding areas. As of now, we plan to do this for the next 5 days.”

She added, “We have found the sandflies in toilet of the infected patient’s house. Though his house was a plastered one, there were sandflies in the crevices near the grinding stone used in kitchen. Usually, sandflies are not found inside plastered houses. A few of the adjacent houses also were found to have sandflies.”

“There are around 70 families in that area. We are conducting a medical camp tomorrow to screen any case as well as to raise awareness on preventive measures,” she said.

“Tonight, a meeting will be held by the Forest and Animal Husbandry departments to collect blood samples from animals in the area.” she added.


Kala-azar is a rare occurrence in Kerala. Reports say Thiruvananthapuram Medical College reported a case in 2005 and 2016. Three years ago, there were three cases reported at Thrissur and Malappuram.

According to WHO, the leishmaniases are a group of diseases caused by protozoan parasites from more than 20 Leishmania species and these parasites are transmitted to humans by the bites of the infected female phlebotomine sandfly - a tiny, 2-3 mm long, insect vector.

Visceral Leishmaniasis is one of the three main types of leishmaniasis. The other two are cutaneous and mucocutaneous leishmaniasis.

The sandfly bites humans and animals to draw blood which they use for developing their eggs. However, in this process, the protozoan parasites from the sandfly enter the human or animal bloodstream.

Also, if the blood from humans or animals which already contains the parasites is drawn out by the fly, then there are high chances that the next person who gets bitten will become infected.

Initially, at the site of sandfly bites on the skin, there will be obvious changes like skin sores or ulcers. In a few months, there will be more generalised symptoms like prolonged fever and fatigue. As the disease progresses, it will start attacking the immune system.

WHO says that most people infected by the parasite do not develop any symptom at all in their life. Therefore, the term leishmaniasis refers to the fact of becoming sick due to a Leishmania infection and not the mere fact of being infected with the parasite.

The disease is curable and becomes fatal only when left untreated.

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