Agartala, June 27 (IANS): A malaria epidemic has killed at least 51 people, including 42 children, in Tripura this month while thousands have fallen ill, officials said on Friday.
Nearly 5,500 of some 25,000 who reported malaria like symptoms have tested positive for the disease, a health department spokesman told reporters here.
While officials have put the death toll at 51, unofficial sources say this could well be 60.
The outbreak of malaria and other diseases has been reported from the tribal-dominated mountainous areas of 11 sub-divisions in five districts: Dhalai, Gomti, Khowai, North Tripura and South Tripura.
The patients have been admitted to government hospitals in the five and adjoining districts.
A team of experts from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) led by special director Awadesh Kumar has visited the malaria affected areas in the past five days.
"The Tripura government has taken right steps to check the epidemic of malaria," he said.
"During our visits to the interior and tribal dominated areas, we have collected samples to analyse them in our laboratories. We will submit our findings to the central and state governments soon."
Chief Minister Manik Sarkar has directed 11 ministers to rush to the malaria hit areas to supervise the disease control programme.
Health and Family Welfare Minister Badal Choudhury said Tripura officials in Guwahati, Kolkata and Delhi to urgently send adequate quantities of anti-malaria medicines.
Leave of all doctors, nurses and health workers has been cancelled.
Experts have reportedly told the government to use second-generation medicines instead of the traditional ones to prevent malaria deaths.
All the northeastern states are malaria prone. Several people are known to die every year due to the disease.
According to NVBDCP, malaria claimed 1,018 lives in 2010 in India, 754 in 2011, 519 in 2012 and 440 in 2013.
This year, up to April, 35 people have died of malaria in the country including 11 in Odisha, eight in West Bengal and seven in Meghalaya.