Thursday Dec 8, 2022
Thursday Dec 8, 2022

Why is Nepal facing a Cholera outbreak?

Circumstances both inevitable and easily manageable are making the spread of cholera feasible in Kathmandu city.

2022 Jul 05, 6:21, Kathmandu

As monsoon season is at its peak, increase in rainfall , frequent disruptions in garbage collection, inadequately treated water supply and maximum consumption of street food make Kathmandu a fertile ground for waterborne diseases like cholera.

Alarmingly, almost 70 percent of the drinking samples taken from Kathmandu valley by the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, have been found contaminated with E coli and faecal coliform. Such contaminated water is highly risky to drink, and the majority of the valley’s people still remain vulnerable. “Intake of inadequately treated pipe water and untested jar water is prevalent among the residents of Kathmandu. Adding to that, Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited, which supplies water to households in the Valley, has yet to replace some of the decades-old supply lines,” says health expert and instructor Barsha Raut, at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EPCD) call center Kathmandu, under the Ministry of Health and Population.

With several cases of cholera already being detected in the city, the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control have been requested to keep checking the food quality of the dishes being served by the hotels and restaurants within the valley. Similarly, according to Balram Tripathi, chief of the health department of the metropolis, the water pipeline and sewerage system have also been ordered to be checked considering the present risky situation. As a precautionary action, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City has also decided to restrict the sale of street foods in the city. However the long term solution for the outbreak of infectious diseases is safe water supply and implementation of adequate sanitation practices.

According to the World Health Organization, inadequate access to clean water and sanitation facilities in economically deprived habitats is the main reason behind the outbreak of cholera. Therefore, crowded urban habitats, slums, camps for internally displaced persons or refugees are the principal areas for cholera outbreaks.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection caused by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Generally it takes between 12 hours to 5 days for a person to develop symptoms after being infected. Cholera affects both children and adults, which leads to death if not treated within hours. However, some do not get to this deadly stage as they develop mild or moderate symptoms which can be treated with oral rehydration solution. More severe cases need rapid treatment with intravenous fluids and antibiotics.

WHO recommends implementing Oral cholera vaccine campaigns for the prevention of large scale cholera infections. Last year, in November, after infection spread over a thousand in Nepal, the Ministry of Health and Population had decided to run a vaccination drive for cholera prevention in the most affected areas. WHO provided 252,363 doses of oral cholera vaccines for the purpose.

The cases of cholera have been appearing consistently in Nepal, which makes Nepal a cholera endemic country. “Regarding best preventable measures for cholera outbreak, the proper use of latrine and water soap for hand washing and drinking chlorinated piped drinking water are to be applied, however boiled water is the best for drinking according to health experts,” says health expert and instructor Barsha Raut, at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EPCD) call center Kathmandu.

To safely manage the possible cholera outbreak among a large mass of the population, the Ministry of Health and Population has directed hospitals across the country to be prepared for a health emergency. “There is a considerable amount of ignorance regarding cholera among the valley population as it is considered to be a disease that occurs only in rural areas,” says Raut.

At present, taking precautions is of extreme significance especially for people living in crowded habitats in the city. Drinking fully boiled drinking water, adopting healthy sanitation practices and avoiding poorly cooked food outside as much as possible are the primary steps to be taken by the public.


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