What is it?
- Kala-azar or visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a tropical parasitic disease characterised by irregular fever, weight loss, anaemia and swelling of the spleen and liver.
- A chronic and potentially fatal disease, VL is caused by a protozoan Leishmania parasite and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected female sandflies.
- According to WHO, globally, about 7 to 10 lakh new cases occur annually. India accounts for about two-thirds of the total global cases, and the disease is endemic to Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
- The disease affects some of the poorest people and is linked to malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing, a weak immune system and a lack of financial resources. Leishmaniasis is also linked to environmental changes such as deforestation, and urbanisation, according to WHO.
- Kala azar, also known as black fever, is one of the most dangerous neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
What does the treatment include?
- Leishmaniasis is a treatable and curable disease, which requires an immunocompetent system and thus those having a weak immune system are prone to get severely affected. All patients diagnosed require prompt and complete treatment.
- Anti-leishmanial medicines are available for treatment. Vector control is also recommended by the WHO, which means reducing or interrupting the transmission of disease by decreasing the number of sandflies in surroundings through insecticide spray, use of insecticide-treated nets, etc.
- The government aimed to eliminate the disease in India by 2015, but that deadline was missed. However, the number of cases has been brought down significantly through the National Kala-Azar Elimination Programme. Medicines, insecticides and technical support are given by the central government, while state governments provide for costs involved in implementation.
Why in News?
- Several districts of Nepal reported rising cases of Kala-Azar disease.