Nepal government, WHO try to tackle scrub typhus epidemic

The Nepal government is currently working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to identify scrub typhus in clinically suspected cases from different parts of the country.

“Nevertheless, no preventive measures are put in place, especially in high-risk areas or from where the cases are being reported,” Dr. Sher Bahadur Pun, coordinator of the clinical research unit of the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, told BioPrepWatch.

There have been 75 confirmed cases in Nepal this month of scrub typhus, which is an acute, febrile, infectious disease that is endemic to East and Southeast Asia and northern Australia.

Scrub typhus is most often spread through the bite of infected mites, as well as ticks, fleas and mice.

 “There is no evidence of scrub typhus transmission from person to person,” Pun said.

A preliminary report on the disease from WHO, however, reported that rats have been causing scrub typhus in Nepal and growth of the disease is suspected to be from humans interacting with contaminated rats that have been predominant since many houses collapsed following an April earthquake.

The infected patients in Nepal have been suffering from rashes, headaches and body aches, and at least eight patients have died, Pun said. 

Because no vaccine exists to treat scrub typhus, Pun said, “suspected (epidemiological linkage or clinically compatible) and laboratory confirmed scrub typhus patients are treated with the antibiotic Doxycycline.”

Additionally, Pun said that Azithromycin and Chloramphenicol “are other alternative antibiotics that could be considered for the treatment of scrub typhus.”

If a patient develops complications, Pun said that “symptomatic treatment is required accordingly.”

Pun added that several studies are underway worldwide and are in various phases of development toward creating a vaccine against scrub typhus.

“However, so far, no effective vaccine is available on the global market,” he said. 

Organizations in this story

Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital Teku, Kathmandu, Central Region, Nepal Kathmandu, Central Region 44600

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