Nepal at high risk of imported diseases outbreak

Kathmandu, November 12

Nepalis are at greater risk of contracting imported infectious diseases, as several countries, where Nepalis are working as migrant workers, have reported increasing cases of Zika, Ebola and other types of influenza, according to doctors.

Countries such as India, Malaysia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, where thousands of Nepalis are employed, have reported outbreak of various infectious diseases.

Nepalis returning home can carry these infectious diseases, resulting in their outbreak in Nepal, according to Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, coordinator of Clinical Research Unit at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, Teku.

India, for example, has confirmed 94 cases of Zika. “The virus can enter Nepal anytime as Nepal shares an open border with the neighbouring country and thousands of people move across the border every day,” said Dr Pun.

Zika, according to the World Health Organisation, is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes, which bite during the day.

“We have a humid climate, which provides fertile environment for mosquitoes to breed,” Dr Pun said, adding, “Nepal has not conducted any test to confirm Zika cases in Nepal.”

Other infectious diseases that can get transmitted to Nepal from India are flu H1N1, chikungunya and Crimean-Congo H fever, according to Dr Pun. Nepal is also at the risk of contracting dengue from India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangladesh; Hanta virus from South Korea; Flu H7N1 (Influenza A virus) from Qatar; severe malaria and Ebola from Africa; Middle East respiratory syndrome corona virus (MERS‐CoV) from Saudi Arabia; polio virus and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever from Pakistan; and bird flu (H7N9) from China, Dr Pun informed.

“It is high time we paid attention to controlling these infectious diseases from spreading in Nepal,” Dr Pun said. But unfortunately Nepal does not have advanced laboratory and testing kits to test these diseases,” Dr Pun added.

The Ministry of Health and Population claims that the government has been monitoring the situation at regular intervals and has directed the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division to provide updates every week.

“We have set up health desks at the international airport and in border areas to detect infected people. We also have a Bio Safety Laboratory of Level-3 to test different kinds of diseases,” MoHP Spokesperson Mahendra Shrestha said. He, however, acknowledged that the lab cannot detect all types of infectious diseases. “That’s why we are planning to upgrade the laboratory,” Shrestha said.