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Kathmandu Sees Unprecedented Surge in Dengue Cases and Doctors Blame Climate Change

In a city that has never faced such a large local outbreak, fear of dengue is so rife that people are flooding to hospitals for testing, even if they turn out to have a simple headache or seasonal flu.

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Updated:September 16, 2019, 2:08 PM IST
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Kathmandu Sees Unprecedented Surge in Dengue Cases and Doctors Blame Climate Change
News18 Creative by Mir Suhail.

This year Kathmandu, Nepal, has seen an unprecedented surge of dengue with doctors saying that climate change is driving the increased cases of dengue.

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral infection spread by the Aedes mosquito. There are four types of the Dengue virus. Upon recovery from one of the Dengue viruses, the body develops immunity against that particular Dengue virus.

However, a second infection can be more severe. Initially, Dengue fever was prevalent in Asia and Latin America but currently about half the world’s population is at risk. The Dengue fever is prevalent in tropical and sub-tropical regions. The fever can be deadly in nature if left untreated. Presently, there is no specific treatment against dengue. Only early detection and proper medical care can save life.

Reuters further reported that in just the first week of September, more than 1,000 cases of the fever were diagnosed at the city's Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, a quarter of them contracted in the Kathmandu area, said Anup Bastola, the hospital's chief tropical medicine consultant.

In a city that has never faced such a large local outbreak, fear of dengue is so rife that people are flooding to hospitals for testing, even if they turn out to have a simple headache or seasonal flu, the doctor said. "The flow of patient is so high that the staffs are busy testing blood samples up until late in the night," Bastola said.

According to data published by Nepal's disease control division, more than 250 cases of locally contracted dengue were detected in the Kathmandu Valley between mid-July and early September, two of them fatal. Last year, the valley saw only six cases, according to the agency's figures.

Meghnath Dhimal, chief research officer at the government's Nepal Health Research Council, said rising temperatures associated with climate change are the major driver of the new threat. Warmer conditions help spread the disease both by making it easier for mosquitoes to reproduce, and by spurring the virus itself to replicate faster.

"As the highlands were rarely previously affected by dengue, people and government official are not well-prepared to prevent and control the disease" Dhimal said. Another obstacle in controlling the disease is simply the lack of awareness of many people about the emerging threat.

If highland Nepal is to successfully fight back against dengue, "awareness of people and control of the vector by effective government action and community mobilisation can be the only effective step", Dhimal added.

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