A new disease caused by bacteria that harvests well in warm water and can emerge in epidemic proportion has been detected in four patients in the country, health officials said on Sunday.
The Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) said two people with the Legionnaires’ disease, a non-communicable disease caused after breathing in mist or vapour containing the bacteria, were treated at the Balkhu-based Vayodha Hospital in first week of November. Doctors at the hospital said two more patients were also treated for the disease. Four male patients from Kuleshwor, Kalimati, Kalanki and Sarlahi were admitted to the hospital after suffering from high fever and diarrhoea. After various diseases were ruled out, a urine antigen test based on standards set by World Health Organization confirmed that the patients were suffering from Legionnaires’ disease caused by bacteria Legionella pneumophila.
This disease new in Nepal had killed seven people and infected 311 others in Portugal in November this year.
“We believe many of the cases are being misdiagnosed in the country. They exhibit symptoms similar to pneumonia and viral fever and health professionals can easily miss the real diagnosis,” Dr Baburam Marasini said.
Dr Prakash Shrestha, general physician who attended the patients at Vayodha, said a patient from Kuleshwor had to be put on mechanical ventilator as the disease got severe. He said three patients have already been discharged and are faring well while a patient is still under observation. “We need to conduct blood culture to know the bacteria rendering the disease,” he said. “The diagnosis is not available in Nepal. We are asking government to support us in the further diagnosis of such patients.”
According to officials, the EDCD was aware of the disease before Saarc Summit and was not revealed fearing that it might hamper the regional meet.
Dr Marasini said they will soon collect water samples and send them to Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the US to test the presence of bacteria.
Experts say increasing number of heated swimming pool and spa facilities in Kathmandu Valley expose people to the risk of the disease.
According to the EDCD, the bacteria grows best in warm water, like the kind found in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems and decorative fountains. “People get Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in a mist or vapour (water droplets in the air) containing the bacteria. One example might be from breathing in droplets sprayed from a hot tub that has not been properly cleaned and disinfected,” the EDCD states.