Nepal is currently grappling with a worrisome outbreak of dengue fever, a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes. What makes this outbreak particularly alarming is its spread to cooler regions, including the Himalayan foothills, which were previously considered less susceptible to the disease. The Kathmandu Valley, Koshi Province, and Baglung District are among the areas experiencing a surge in dengue cases, prompting urgent action from health authorities.
Within the Kathmandu Valley, there has been a rapid increase in dengue infections in recent months. Hospitals in the Valley are reporting an alarming number of new cases, with an estimated 70 to 80 individuals testing positive for dengue each day. This surge is especially concerning as it coincides with Dashain, one of Nepal’s major festivals, which may strain healthcare resources due to many health workers taking vacations. Dr. Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of the Clinical Research Unit at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, expressed deep concerns about the situation, emphasizing the alarming rate at which positive cases are surging.
Preventive measures against dengue infection in the Kathmandu Valley have been lacking. Although some municipalities initiated search-and-destroy campaigns during the monsoon season, these efforts were unfortunately discontinued. Experts believe that this lack of proactive measures by authorities has contributed to the renewed spread of the dengue virus. They stress the importance of robust measures such as search-and-destroy campaigns and awareness drives to control the spread of the virus.
The situation in Koshi Province, located in eastern Nepal, is grave. The province has recorded 17 dengue-related fatalities and over 30,000 infections since mid-July. Sunsari district has been severely affected, with 13 deaths and a staggering 19,432 infections. The dengue infection has spread across all 14 districts of Koshi Province, affecting Morang, Jhapa, and Udayapur as well. Local government efforts to initiate anti-dengue campaigns have not been sufficient in controlling the surge in infections, highlighting the need for a comprehensive approach to dengue prevention and management.
Even cooler regions like Baglung District have recently witnessed a surge in dengue cases. In just one month, the number of cases has skyrocketed from 40 to 130, with Dhorpatan Municipality reporting the highest number of cases. The increasing number of patients displaying dengue symptoms is placing additional pressure on healthcare facilities in the region. Authorities are urging residents to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites and to raise awareness about dengue prevention.
As of October 2023, Nepal has reported over 35,000 confirmed dengue infections and more than two dozen deaths. However, experts suspect that the actual numbers are much higher due to underreporting and an ineffective case reporting system. The situation calls for immediate action to strengthen the reporting system and improve the accuracy of data.
In conclusion, the dengue outbreak in Nepal poses a significant public health concern that demands urgent and concerted efforts. Comprehensive vector control measures, awareness campaigns, and timely reporting are crucial in combating the spread of the dengue virus. This outbreak serves as a reminder that infectious diseases can pose challenges even in cooler regions, underscoring the need for a united effort to protect the health and well-being of the population.