Dozens die in malaria outbreak in India

Medical authorities have gone on alert in India's northeastern Assam state after an outbreak of malaria left at least 35 people died, officials said Thursday.

Teams have been rushed to the worst hit areas, in the eastern part of the state, to perform blood tests and spray insecticides to kill the mosquitoes that carry the illness, Assam Health Minister Bhumidhar Barman told The Associated Press.

He said up to 20,000 people were suffering from the illness, but that it was still not considered an epidemic.

Nine people died of malaria Wednesday at a government hospital in the town of Lakhimpur, 350 kilometers (200 miles) east of Gauhati, the state capital, a local newspaper, The Sentinel, reported Thursday.

Unofficial estimates put the toll due to malaria across Assam at more than 100 people in the past three weeks.

Authorities say the strain of malaria appear increasingly resistant to the most common anti-malarial drugs.

"We are in touch with federal health authorities on the use of alternative drugs," the minister said.

The heavily forested areas along Assam's border with the Himalayan nation of Bhutan has also been hit by the outbreak, Barman said.

Up to 600 people die every year in malaria outbreaks in India's northeast, an isolated area of seven states.

In 2005, federal health authorities rushed 100,000 insecticide-treated mosquito nets to distribute among the poor in Assam, reports the AP.

I.L.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team