Nepal | April 10, 2020

EDITORIAL: Cholera scare

The Himalayan Times

The health authorities should also focus on making the public better aware that they should take certain precautions to guard against an attack of cholera

It is just a couple of weeks that the monsoon started in Nepal and 17 cases of cholera have already been detected in the Kathmandu Valley.

According to a weekly bulletin released by the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division of the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital at Teku (popularly known as Teku Hospital), 10 new cases have tested positive there and at Patan Hospital, Lalitpur.

The first cases were reported this year as early as June whereas in the past years they had been found only after mid-July until mid-November, according to Dr Sher Bahadur Pun at Teku Hospital. But this figure should not be regarded as the total picture of cholera cases, not only in the country, but even in the Valley, because the figures from the private hospitals have not been available.

Particularly those who can afford the more expensive treatment prefer to visit private hospitals which are less crowded, with greater personal attention, though not better treatment than at government hospitals.

In the days to come, it is hoped that the data from all hospitals and health facilities are collected on cholera cases and a total picture is provided to the public. Cholera is a dangerous disease which if not treated early will take human lives. And cholera bacteria have an incubation period of just two hours to two days.

The government authorities should arrange for the full data on cholera to be made available periodically. This would help the public to realize the seriousness of the situation and the health authorities to take proper action to control it effectively.

Luckily, nobody has died from among the identified cholera patients so far this year. This is mainly because these patients are from urban areas and have received early treatment.

But the cholera cases that may have occurred in villages outside the Kathmandu Valley are unknown. In the Kathmandu Valley last year, 80 cases of cholera had been found and nobody was reported dead from the disease. Many patients confuse diarrhea and cholera as in the latter case frequent loose motions are one of the symptoms. Symptoms like nausea and vomiting and headaches are also seen.

Prevention is always better than cure.

Therefore, the health authorities should also focus on making the public better aware that they should take certain precautions to guard against an attack of cholera.

Drinking boiled or chlorinated water, eating only fresh and uncontaminated food, proper sanitation and personal hygiene are often advised as safeguards against cholera. This message should be taken to the public more effectively.

At the same time efforts to detect cholera cases and gather the data from around the country are also needed in addition to ensuring the availability of proper medication for cholera. Fortunately, cholera is a disease which can be treated as well as prevented.

DNA lab in NAMS

Marking the 127th year of the establishment of the country’s oldest hospital, Bir Hospital, which has been transformed into the National Academy of Medical Sciences (NAMS), has introduced a genetic testing laboratory.

The state-of-the-art laboratory, the first of its kind in the country, will carry out genetic testing, also known as DNA testing, to detect genetic problems of patients. The testing will not only help doctors diagnose various forms of ailments but also help them treat certain intractable illnesses, including cancer, sickle cell anemia and miscarriage, among others.

The 10 million-rupee project was set up in the academy in view of the growing number of genetic ailments in the country. Before setting up of this high-tech facility a large number of patients had no option than to go abroad to get genetic ailments checked  which cost hundreds of thousands of rupees.

A majority of the patients could not afford to go abroad to get the diagnostic services and treatment. Supported by the Ministry of Health and Population and WHO the facility will cater to those who need it urgently. But the academy still lacks skilled and adequate number of human resources to run it smoothly.

Above all, it should also be affordable to all.

A version of this article appears in print on July 29, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.

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