Authorities in Nepalgunj focus on contact tracing after 15 positive cases for Covid-19 were confirmed on SundayThe local administration on Monday issued a prohibitory order in Nepalgunj with effect from Tuesday to control the possible spread of coronavirus.
Thakur Singh Tharu & Rupa Gahatraj
With 16 positive cases of Covid-19 in Nepalgunj Sub-metropolis of Banke district, authorities are focusing on contact tracing to control the spread of the virus. However, the District Public Health Office in Banke has been struggling to find the travel history of the infected people and trace hundreds of people they came in contact with.
“Efforts are on to ‘contact trace’ those who came in contact with the infected people. Nepalgunj has become a hot spot for coronavirus since a large number of positive cases were confirmed in a single day,” said Naresh Shrestha, the focal point person at the health office. “We collected the swabs of 90 people after Covid-19 was confirmed in a man on Friday. We are contact tracing those who came in contact with the infected people.”
According to him, more than 300 people should be traced immediately to control the spread of the disease.
The infected people are being kept in an isolation ward at Sushil Koirala Prakhar Cancer Hospital in Khajura. Government officials and security personnel have interviewed the infected people to trace those who came into their contact. According to the District Public Health Office, more than 300 people have been traced based on the information provided by the infected persons.
A 60-year-old man of Nepalgunj who had returned from India a month ago tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday. Authorities were alarmed as the man was out in public and even visited three neighbourhood homes. Health officials on Saturday collected the throat swabs of 90 people who came in contact with the infected man. The lab tests conducted in Bheri Hospital confirmed 15 positive cases on Sunday.
Health officials say that the virus has entered the third phase, which is the community transmission phase, in Nepalgunj.
“The federal health ministry is the authority responsible for determining the phase of the coronavirus infection in Nepal. But we suspect community transmission of the disease in Nepalgunj,” said Dr Rajan Pandey, the chief consultant physician at Bheri Hospital.
The area in Nepalgunj where the positive cases were confirmed is a dense human settlement. Health officials suspect that the number of positive cases might go up, as the settlement’s residents were found to be visiting one another’s houses even during the lockdown.
Health officials at Bheri Hospital have underscored the importance of mass testing in Nepalgunj. Swabs of 93 people were collected on Sunday; among them 54 tested negative for the disease while the report of 39 samples is yet to come. Dr Prakash Thapa, chief at Bheri Hospital, argued that the number of positive cases of coronavirus shot up due to the delay in mass testing.
“At this stage, there is no alternative but to conduct mass testing in the community,” he added.
The Khajura-based cancer hospital where the infected people were admitted has a 40-bed isolation ward, six ICU beds and three ventilators.
“We don’t have a shortage of human resources now. We have a team of 12 health workers, including two doctors, to provide treatment to the infected people. But we could fall short if the cases keep on rising,” said Thapa.
The provincial minister for Social Development Sudarshan Baral reached Nepalgunj on Monday and held discussions with health officials, local administrations and security personnel regarding the treatment of Covid-19 patients and extending health facilities if the numbers keep on rising.
Meanwhile, the local administration on Monday issued a prohibitory order in Nepalgunj with effect from Tuesday to control the possible spread of coronavirus. Chief District Officer of Banke Kumar Bahadur Khadka said the local administration has sealed four settlements in Nepalgunj and has strictly enforced the lockdown as more cases are getting reported.
“We have asked the federal government to send additional rapid diagnostic test kits and equipment for mass testing” he added.
With the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in Banke, neighbouring districts of Bardiya, Dang and even the districts of Karnali Province are on high alert for a possible outbreak of coronavirus. A large number of people from these districts passed through Nepalgunj to return home, mainly from India, in the last two months.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of September 22, 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 has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world and infected more than 31,405,983 people with 967,505 deaths and 22,990,260 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,557,573 with 88,943 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 306,304 confirmed cases with 6,420 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 65,276 cases with 427 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.