‘Nepal runs Zika risk post-monsoon’With Zika virus spreading rapidly in the Americas, there is a danger of it travelling to Nepal, particularly in the post-monsoon season, given the presence of the mosquito that carries the virus in Nepal’s major cities including Kathmandu, experts warn.
With Zika virus spreading rapidly in the Americas, there is a danger of it travelling to Nepal, particularly in the post-monsoon season, given the presence of the mosquito that carries the virus in Nepal’s major cities including Kathmandu, experts warn.
According to the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD), the mosquito linked to the spread of Zika in the Americas, Aedes aegypti, is already present in Kathmandu and other major cities. Once the temperatures rise above 15 degrees Celsius, the mosquito would have a conducive environment for breeding.
An EDCD study in 2014 had found a high concentration of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the causative agent of Zika and dengue, in places like Thankot, Satungal, Naikap, Kalanki and Gongabu in the Valley. Most of these locations fall on the route connecting the Capital with the districts outside. Chitwan, Birgunj, Nepalgunj, Dhangadhi, Nawalparasi and Butwal are also at risk.
Zika has severe effect on pregnant women with devastating impacts on the foetus. Children are born with microcephaly, a condition where their head is too small. According to the Pan American Health Organi-zation, Brazil has reported 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly since October.
EDCD Director Dr Baburam Marasini said that as part of their preparations they have begun training doctors on treating patients infected with the virus. “Hospitals with a separate infectious disease unit can treat it,” said Dr Marasini.
However, despite the preparations, the National Public Health Laboratory has no kit to diagnose the disease in case it spreads to the country. Dr Marasini claimed that they have begun the process to import the equipment.
According to the World Health Organization, Zika is an emerging mosquito-borne virus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys through a monitoring network of sylvatic yellow fever. Transmission of the virus in human was found in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania.
Experts say it is relatively easier to fight Zika virus as the government has been conducting programmes to contain dengue. Since humans are infected with Zika and dengue by the same mosquito, strengthening programmes against dengue would also help avert the Zika menace.
“This programme should be focussed on Tarai and inner Tarai districts,” said Purushottam Gautam, former vector control officer at the EDCD. “The intervention should focus on eliminating the mosquito in its larval stage. The government should adopt an intensive search and destroy programme to avert the spread of the disease.”
The American Centre for Disease Control and Prevention states that people contracting Zika exhibit symptoms of fever, rash, joint paint or conjunctivitis while patients also complain of muscle pain and headache.