Last year this time, the Infectious and Tropical Disease Hospital in Teku would be filled with patients suffering from mosquito or dog bites. But for the past week, entire families are sleeping in the open overnight at the hospital gate waiting for their turn to get Covid-19 PCR tests in the morning.
The novel coronavirus has overshadowed many prevalent diseases and their treatment in Nepal, and one of the deadliest among them is rabies.
Last month, on a day that saw six Covid-19 fatalities nationwide, at least three people died of rabies in Dolakha district after a dog bit 10 people. The three, aged 32, 14 and 8, died despite receiving anti-rabies vaccines.
Their families filed police complaints against a local clinic for using faulty vaccine, but ward chair Raj Kusum Lama later said the three died because they did not go for the full treatment of three injections.
In Kathmandu, the Teku hospital is the only one which administers free anti-rabies vaccines. It used to get as many as 150 dog bite cases a day, but the number dwindled to only about 30 daily cases in the past months – even though there is anecdotal evidence of hungry street dogs getting more aggressive during the lockdown.
Surya Ghimire was recently walking from his home in Dhapakhel to a school in Patan where he is a security guard, when he was suddenly attacked by a canine pack.
“There were no cars on Sat Dobato, and the dogs ruled the intersection. It was so dangerous, I started carrying a stick to protect myself,” he recalled. “The dogs were chasing people on motorcycles. They never did this before.”