Malaria kills 77 in India

Paramedics are testing blood and spraying insecticide in India's remote northeastern state of Assam, where malaria has claimed at least 77 lives in the past month, an official said Friday.

Army doctors were asked to stand by as the disease affected nearly 350,000 people in 10 of Assam's 27 districts, said state health official Jatin Bora.

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

Assam's government has set up makeshift hospitals and laboratories in remote villages, and paramedics have been deployed to spray insecticide in villages and are carrying out blood tests to identify victims, he said.

"There have been 77 confirmed deaths due to malaria in the past month," Bora said.

He said the worst-hit is Lakhimpur district, where 38 of the deaths occurred.

The federal health ministry has rushed to Assam tons of anti-malaria drugs and mosquito nets specially treated with mosquito repellent.

"We are also receiving drugs and manpower support from agencies like the UNICEF and the Indian Red Cross," Bora said.

Health authorities have encountered hundreds of patients resistant to the most common anti-malaria drug, chloroquine.

"We have enough supplies of alternative drugs to treat such patients," Bora said, reports the AP.

I.L.