With 14 new cases, Nepal’s Covid-19 tally doubles in a single dayTwelve cases in Udayapur and two in Chitwan mark a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections in the country, bringing the total to 30.
Fourteen new Covid-19 cases were confirmed on Friday in Udayapur and Chitwan, nearly doubling Nepal’s tally to 30.
According to the Health Ministry, 12 Covid-19 cases were confirmed in Udayapur and two in Chitwan via the polymerase chain reaction method.
Of the 14 new patients from both districts, 13 are males between the ages of 20 and 40 while one is a 63-year-old woman.
An official at the Health Ministry said that among the 12 patients infected with the coronavirus in Udayapur, a majority are Indian nationals. Their samples were first tested in Birgunj on Thursday. After they showed positive results, the samples were dispatched to the National Public Health Laboratory in Kathmandu, which confirmed the presence of the coronavirus.
All 12 patients had been residing in a mosque, according to Dr Basudev Pandey, director of the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division.
Samples of two patients, a mother and son, from Chitwan were also tested and confirmed at the National Public Health laboratory. The duo had returned home from the United Kingdom, according to Pandey.
Dipak Kumar Pahadi, Udayapur Chief District Officer, said that preliminary information showed that the 12 patients had all arrived in Udayapur from Biratnagar via Saptari. They are believed to have visited Bodebarsain Municipality in Saptari to participate in a religious conference held on February 15-17, he said.
Police have meanwhile cordoned off the mosque and the surrounding areas, and restricted people’s movement.
“We are planning to seal the area and send the patients to the isolation ward at Koshi Hospital,” said Pahadi.
Public health experts said that the virus could have spread to nearby communities and stressed active case finding, which has not yet started.
“We can assume that the disease has spread in the community at some level by the pattern in which it has spread in countries across the globe,” Dr Anup Subedee, a consultant infectious disease physician, told the Post. “We have to strengthen our surveillance systems and start active case finding.”
The government has not yet started active case findings, which entails testing all suspects, including those with symptoms of Covid-19 and randomised testing at the community level.
The Health Ministry had earlier decided to mobilise female community health volunteers to look for possible coronavirus patients but due to the indecision of the government to start active case finding, these volunteers have not been able to report cases of fever and persistent cough to higher authorities.
“Active case finding must be started immediately,” said Subedee. “Otherwise, we cannot control the outbreak. We don't have much time.”
Positive results on the rapid diagnostic test but not on the polymerase chain reaction method confirms that more people have already contracted the virus, say doctors.
“Those infected might have passed it on to others before getting cured,” Dr Baburam Marasini, former director of the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, told the Post. “Every policymaker and expert in the Health Ministry knows this, but has not bothered to start active case findings.”
Dilli Ram Khatiwada contributed reporting from Udayapur.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 25, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 had spread to 210 countries and infected more than 5,498,580 people with 346,688 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 138,536 with 4,024 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 54,601 confirmed cases with 1,133 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 603 cases with three deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.