Malaria deaths in India 13 times UN's estimate, study finds
New Delhi - Malaria kills 205,000 people in India annually, a figure more than 13 times higher than UN estimates, research released Thursday said.
The study, published in the Lancet medical journal, raised doubts about the total number of malaria deaths reported worldwide. The UN's World Health Organization (WHO) estimated 881,000 malaria deaths per year globally, of which 91 per cent occur in Africa and about 15,000 occur in India.
'This low estimate should be reconsidered as should the low WHO estimate of adult malaria deaths worldwide,' the study, published online, said.
But the WHO said the estimates produced by the study appeared too high, the BBC reported.
The international team of researchers who conducted the study sent field workers to 6,671 randomly selected areas in India to interview people about 122,000 deaths from 2001 to 2003.
The field workers sent back half-page reports about the severity and course of the patients' fevers.
The field reports were then sent to two physicians who each gave an independent assessment on the causes of the deaths.
The doctors concluded that 3.6 per cent of the deaths occurred from malaria. Ninety per cent of the deaths were in rural areas, and 86 per cent occurred outside a health-care facility, said the study, which was funded by the US government's National Institutes of Health, the Canadian government's Institute of Health Research and the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, a medical research institute in Toronto.
'Death rates attributed to malaria correlated geographically with local malaria-transmission rates derived independently from the Indian malaria-control programme,' the study said.
The results extrapolated nationwide, showed malaria killed 205,000 people under 70 years of age each year: 55,000 in early childhood, 30,000 from 5 to 14 and 120,000 from 15 to 69.
The WHO estimated that malaria caused 10,000 to 21,000 deaths in India in 2006.
Robert Newman, head of the WHO's global malaria programme, told the BBC that the agency's current evaluation methods had limitations but said he doubted the high estimates from the study.
Newman said the method used in the study to determine malaria deaths was not a trustworthy method because the symptoms of malaria are shared with many other causes of acute fever.