For Prabina Maharjan, it started with a headache, which then turned into fever and body pain.
When she finally turned up at the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital a week ago, tests showed something odd for this high-elevation city: dengue fever, a scourge more associated with Nepal’s low-lying tropics.
But as climate change brings hotter temperatures, disease threats are shifting - and this year Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital in the Himalayan foothills, is seeing an unprecedented surge of dengue.
In just the first week of September, more than 1,000 cases of the fever were diagnosed at the city’s Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, a quarter of them contracted in the Kathmandu area, said Anup Bastola, the hospital’s chief tropical medicine consultant.
In previous years, the hospital mainly has seen cases of the painful and occasionally fatal disease in people coming from Nepal’s southern lowlands, he said.
“But this year we saw many cases from the Kathmandu Valley itself,” he added.
In a city that has never faced such a large local outbreak, fear of dengue is so rife that people are flooding to hospitals for testing, even if they turn out to have a simple headache or seasonal flu, the doctor said.
“The flow of patient is so high that the staff are busy testing blood samples up until late in the night,” Bastola said.
Those in the testing lines included 39-year-old Maharjan’s mother and son, who also turned out to have caught the mosquito-carried illness, though weren’t hospitalised for a week as she was.
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