Nepal | June 05, 2020

EDITORIAL: Remain on high alert

The Himalayan Times
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The govt health facilities must be prepared not only for dealing with COVID-19, but also for a possible dengue outbreak

Even as the government grapples with the spread of the coronavirus, another vector-borne mosquito-related dengue disease has hit the country hard, with the number of cases rising up to 36 across the country, including the Kathmandu Valley. The country had witnessed a surge in dengue cases last year, numbering a total of 14,662 in 67 districts, from July 17 till November 4. Six persons had died of dengue last year. As per the statistics maintained by the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD), as many as 36 cases of dengue have been reported across the country this year from January till March 13. Among the total number of cases, three persons have been reported from Kathmandu and Lalitpur, three from Morang, two each from Sunsari and Kaski, one each from Nuwakot, Ramechhap, Makwanpur, Jhapa, Gorkha, Myagdi and Nawalparasi (east). Rupandehi has reported the highest number of 11 cases while one each was reported in Nawalparasi (west), Kapilvastu, Banke, Dadeldhura and Kailali districts.

The dengue virus is transmitted to humans when the female Aedes aegypti mosquito bites a person. The mosquito is likely to bite early in the morning or before dusk. The symptoms of the vector-borne virus include high fever, severe headache and pain behind the eyes, pain in muscles and bones, rashes and back pain. Some of the symptoms are similar to the coronavirus that has taken all the continents, except for Antarctica, into its grip, bringing the world economy to a grinding halt. It is difficult for the common people and even the health practitioners to distinguish between dengue and COVID-19. It is likely that dengue-related cases will rise with rise in the temperature during summer.

Even though the government has taken extraordinary measures to combat COVID-19, it cannot overlook the steps it needs to take to tackle the dengue disease that generally affects those who live in dingy and crowded places, especially in the urban areas. Dengue-causing mosquitoes generally thrive in cities with improper waste management. They lay eggs in the water deposited in discarded tyres, bottles and cans, in water collected in flower pots and air conditioners. These areas need proper cleansing to remove mosquitoes from laying eggs. Though the mortality rate from the dengue virus is relatively low as compared to the fatality rate of the coronavirus, an estimated 40,000 cases of deaths are recorded all over the world every year, mostly in the least developed countries. The spread of the dengue virus can be prevented provided all the municipalities and the urban centres dispose of the waste properly and the people practise basic health and hygiene. All the government health facilities must be fully prepared not only for dealing with COVID-19, but also for a possible outbreak of the dengue virus, which has become a common concern of all. If our health institutes are kept on high alert all the time, we can also deal with other diseases that might spread at an epidemic or even pandemic level. The only thing the government, concerned health facilities and the public needs to do is to raise the highest level of awareness to help the people know how to protect themselves and the community from dengue and other vector-borne diseases.

Parking woes

It’s no surprise that lack of space has prevented Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) from building advanced parking lots inside the metropolis. Hence, the mayor’s promise made during the local level elections more than two years ago to ease the traffic congestion remains largely unfulfilled. The KMC’s plans have kept changing due to opposition from the locals or inability to find enough space to build a number of underground and multi-storey automated parking lots at the different places proposed. At present, the roadsides are used to park vehicles, which only narrow the road and cause traffic jams, especially in the core commercial areas.

Kathmandu’s traffic has become unmanageable with too many vehicles on the roads at any given time. So the solution lies in not trying to build parking lots but cutting down on the number of vehicles plying the roads. A parking lot can only accommodate a handful of vehicles. It also makes little sense to keep broadening the streets if there is no end to the number of private vehicles being added to the city year after year. The people must be encouraged to use public buses and walk around a bit if the traffic chaos in the capital is to improve.

A version of this article appears in print on March 16, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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