Netra Bahadur Nembang from Bhairabtol in Siddhicharan-12 Municipality, Okhaldhunga, suffered from an unusually high fever last month. In his weakened state, he went to the Okhaldhunga Community Hospital at the district headquarters for examination. Health workers at the hospital have confirmed dengue. Nembang, who had not left his camp for the past few months, was surprised to hear the diagnosis.
âI still can’t believe I got dengue fever during the winter months in a cold place,â Nembang said. Nembang is currently recovering at home after being released from the hospital.
âMy neighbor was also infected with dengue in November,â he said. “It’s quite confusing.”
According to Phadindra Dani, the statistics officer at Okhaldhunga Community Hospital, this is the first time that dengue has been detected in the district.
âEight dengue patients have visited the hospital for treatment since July. Six of them became infected with the disease during the cold months of November and December, âDani said.
Dengue is a mosquito-borne disease that is transmitted by female mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus and is more prevalent in the southern plains. However, cases of dengue have been reported in several high hill districts in recent years.
In addition to the dengue cases, Okhaldhunga Bazaar, the headquarters of Okhaldhunga district in Province 1, located about 1,500 meters above sea level, has reported several other tropical diseases in recent years.
Five cases of brush typhus, a bacterial infectious disease transmitted by mites, were reported in the district in 2020. The number of cases, according to the district health office, has increased to 15 this year.
âWe cannot determine whether mosquitoes originate from high altitude places or whether they arrive from other places. It is also possible that infected people caught the disease while traveling to warmer climates, âsaid Maheshwor Gosain, doctor at Okhaldhunga Community Hospital.
Kala-azar, another vector-borne disease commonly found in Tarai districts, has also been wreaking havoc in Okhaldhunga district for the past few years. The disease was detected in a man from Richuwa in the rural municipality of Manebhanjyang-5 five years ago.
According to the district health office, up to 74 people have been infected with Kala-azar in the past three years in Okhaldhunga district and 64 of them are from Manebhanjyang.
Bishworaj Dahal, head of the Manebhanjyang health unit, says Kala-azar was first detected in Ward 5 five years ago, but has now spread to six other neighborhoods as well. .
âThe disease spreads every year in high altitude settlements,â he said.
Health workers warn that Kala-azar is turning into an epidemic in Manebhanjyang. In its effort to control the spread of the disease, the local unit disinfects affected areas twice a year but that’s not enough, they say.
âWe are doing our best to control the spread of the disease. But we will need larger programs from the federal and provincial governments to control the disease, âsaid Dahal.
The federal government is providing Rs 7,000 each to patients in Kala-azar for treatment. A budget of 100,000 rupees for Kala-azar patients was handed over to the district health office in the past fiscal year.
âWe could only cover the cost of treatment for 14 patients from Kala-azar. Twenty-five other patients were denied treatment fees. We have requested additional budget from higher authorities, but it has not yet been released, âsaid Naresh Yadav, the focal person of the district health office.
According to the Health Directorate of Province 1, Nepal plans to eradicate Kala-azar from the country by 2025.
âThere are several challenges in our efforts to contain the disease in the districts of Okhaldhunga and Kalikot. Efforts are underway to launch various programs such as disinfection of affected areas, organization of awareness campaigns and distribution of mosquito nets, among others. We will soon be implementing the programs, âsaid Gyan Bahadur Basnet, Chief Health Officer.