Nepal Still Recovering From A Sudden Dengue Outbreak

Usually, Nepal hardly has anything to worry about whenever the annual mosquito season brings forth outbreaks and malaria in Asian tropical regions. Their high-altitude placement in the Himalayas made sure of that since the region itself is too high and cold for the disease-carrying insects. However, climate change has made things go south in the last few years, and the warming climate made it possible for insect-carried outbreaks to start affecting Nepal.

And outbreak it is, in the worst way possible, as at least 9,000 people (from 65 of the country’s 77 districts) has been diagnosed as suffering from dengue, its worst ever recorded in history. From these 9,000, six patients have already succumbed and died, unfortunately.

“We have never had an outbreak like this before. People are afraid,” Dr. Basu Dev Pandey, director of the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Diseases Hospital in the nation’s capital, Kathmandu, said. According to him, dozens of people have lined up at the nearby clinic for blood testing, all hoping that they’re safe from the disease.

Usually, dengue is carried by A. albopictus and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which explains why they’re more associated with low-lying tropical climates that are much warmer and humid. However, thanks to climate change and altered rainfall patterns, even high-altitude regions like Nepal have slowly been experiencing an increasingly warmer weather, meaning that these insects can now thrive there as well.

In fact, the changing situation in Nepal has been going on for more than a decade now, with its first dengue outbreak happening back in 2006. However, around that time, only a handful of people were affected, and all of them came from its lowland districts.

“Climate change has created the conditions for the transmission of dengue at higher elevations,” Meghnath Dhimal, chief research officer at the Nepal Health Research Council, a government agency based in Kathmandu, said. 

Furthermore, a new study published last June 10 in the journal Nature Microbiology stated that from here, it’s only going to get worse and that more and more areas would be suitable for dengue transmission.

Dengue Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen at the Laboratory of Entomology and Ecology of the Dengue Branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in San Juan, March 6, 2016. Picture taken March 6, 2016. REUTERS/Alvin Baez