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Analysis, Environment

Concerns grow over dengue spread, but government is too slow to act

State agencies are just gearing up for meetings to chart out strategies to combat the disease.


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Updated: August 27, 2019

The Ministry of Health and Population on Sunday discussed with stakeholders ways to deal with the dengue spread in Kathmandu Valley and other parts of the country. The meeting was held almost two weeks after dengue cases were detected and at least one person died of the disease in Sunsari district.

Bibek Kumar Lal, director at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division of the ministry, told the Post that the meeting discussed the risk of spread of the disease and possible consequences.

“The next meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, which will be chaired by Health Minister Upendra Yadav,” Lal said. “We have decided to invite mayors and deputy mayors of all the local units in the Valley as well as the representatives of agencies concerned to discuss the roles they can play to mitigate the risk of dengue in their areas.”

The Health Ministry will also provide training and orientation to health workers on ways to deal with the deadly disease.

There are already concerns over the government’s delayed response to control dengue outbreaks in many parts of the country. Over 3,000 people have been infected with the dengue virus in Dharan Sub-metropolitan City in Sunsari alone. Authorities have failed to contain the spread of the disease even after three months.

In Kathmandu Valley, the World Health Organization recently warned of a possible dengue outbreak after finding dengue-causing mosquitoes, their eggs and larvae in many areas.

Dengue outbreak usually happens in the post-monsoon season. But this time the outbreak occurred in May due to excessive pre-monsoon rain.
In the past, the Ministry of Health used to train health workers before the onset of the monsoon season and supply medicines and reagents to health facilities to deal with the possible dengue outbreak. Health workers were put on alert and the security agencies were asked to remain in standby for blood donation and to conduct “search and destroy” drive to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds. Similarly, dengue awareness drives were run with the help of female community health volunteers, teachers, mothers’ groups, local clubs and non-governmental agencies.
But with the implementation of federalism, coordination among the concerned health agencies has been disrupted.

“Yes we are late and we are still struggling to make all concerned agencies work in tandem,” said Lal. “We are still in a dilemma over the responsibilities of various agencies.”

Geeta Acharya, an official at the Provincial Health Office in Kathmandu, said Sunday’s meeting also discussed seeking help from the security agencies to run search and destroy campaign.

The division confirmed one dengue-related death in Sunsari district on Sunday. Two other deaths have been reported in Doti and Chitwan, but the causes are yet to be ascertained, officials at the division said.

“We have sought detailed reports of those who died in Doti and Chtiwan,” said Uttam Raj Pyakurel, a vector control inspector at the division.
According to the division, dozens of people in Kathmandu Valley have been infected with dengue virus in recent weeks.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral disease, which is transmitted by the female Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. The same vector also transmits chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika virus, according to the World Health Organization.

Dengue-transmitting mosquitoes breed in clean water and bite people in daylight.

Mild to high fever, severe muscle pain, rashes, severe headache, and pain in eyes are some of the symptoms of dengue.
The UN health agency says there is no specific treatment for severe dengue, but early detection and access to proper medical care can lower the fatality rate.



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The Kathmandu Post
About the Author: The Kathmandu Post was Nepal’s first privately owned English broadsheet daily and is currently the country's leading English-language newspaper.

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