Kala-azar and elephantiasis
Under-represented in the Indian press, elephantiasis and kala-azar take their toll on poor communities. Sanjit Bagchi reports on these endemic parasitic infections
Terai region, in the foothills of the middle Himalayas, is a holiday haven for trekkers from all over the world. The picturesque valleys-of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan-are also a happy hunting ground of sand flies, the deadly vectors of a fatal parasitic disease called kala-azar or visceral leishmaniasis. Those who become infected have irregular bouts of fever, substantial weight loss and anaemia. If the condition is left untreated mortality is about 100%.1
According to an estimate by Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF), kala-azar is one of the top five neglected diseases of the world, infecting about 500 000 people and killing 60 000 people each year.23 Most deaths occur in the Terai region because people in these areas are so impoverished that they cannot afford the $150 to buy the basic sodium stibogluconate treatment. The average annual income of a person in this area is mere $200.
Moreover in recent