Online gaming among reason behind malaria deaths in youths in Meghalaya: Official - Hindustan Times
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Online gaming among reason behind malaria deaths in youths in Meghalaya: Official

ByDavid Laitphlang
May 23, 2024 05:57 PM IST

Many youths, especially in the Garo Hills region, remain oblivious to mosquito bites due to their engrossment in gaming, contrasting with older generations who are more vigilant

Shillong: The health department in Meghalaya has linked a surge in malaria-related deaths among youths to online gaming, with all eight reported deaths in 2023 occurring in individuals under 30.

 (Representative Photo)
(Representative Photo)

“Late reporting of fever cases, self-medication and seeking treatment from mobile quacks have been factors which caused deaths in the majority of the cases,” Ram Kumar, secretary (health) and mission director of National Health Mission, Meghalaya, said.

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He added, “Also, one interesting finding is the youth venturing to forested areas where mobile networks are available in the evenings have made this age group more vulnerable to mosquito bites, which could be due to a lack of awareness on the dos and don’ts in the prevention of malaria.” 

Concerns arise from youths’ prolonged outdoor online gaming sessions, particularly in rural areas, where access to better internet connectivity drives this behaviour, health officials said.

Many youths, especially in the Garo Hills region, remain oblivious to mosquito bites due to their engrossment in gaming, contrasting with older generations who are more vigilant. 

“Malaria is a vector-borne disease which can be fatal if it is not detected and treated early. This has been one of the causes of so many deaths historically in the state. After close to a decade, we have reported cases of double-digit deaths due to malaria, and this is indeed concerning.” Kumar said. 

The state took a lot of steps a decade ago to reduce such deaths by decentralising the process of diagnosing and treatment, whereby ASHA workers were empowered to provide it. But, in the last two years, there has been a rise in the cases of Malaria in a few districts. About 14 of them died of it and surprisingly most of them were less than 30 years of age, according to the official. 

Mosquitoes’ evolving behaviour, with bite durations doubling over the past decade, adds to the challenge. Last year, all eight malaria-related deaths were in individuals under 30, marking a significant departure from the past 10-12 years’ trends.  

To address the menace, the state health department is distributing bed nets and medical supplies, focusing efforts on high-risk districts such as South Garo Hills and East Garo Hills. Climate change’s impact on malaria incidence is also under consideration.  

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