Travelers are often concerned about potential health issues that may arise when traveling, especially when arriving in a developing country like Nepal. Many people traveling in Asia experience intestinal illnesses, dengue, typhoid, viral fever, and others, and unfortunately, this is also common in Nepal. Currently, dengue is of top concern.
Everyone should be aware of potential illnesses and prepare accordingly before leaving their home country. It is important to receive the appropriate immunizations. Most governments suggest routine vaccines, including COVID-19, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), and influenza.
Other preventable diseases which have vaccines available include hepatitis A, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, hepatitis B, yellow fever, and typhoid. These vaccines will help keep you healthy if you are exposed to a particular illness, making your trip much more enjoyable.
However, it is only necessary to have the yellow fever vaccine if you have recently been in a region where the disease is prevalent. No other vaccines are required to enter Nepal.
Dengue in Nepal
In recent years, there have been several dengue outbreaks. In the past, Nepal did not see severe issues with the disease due to a colder climate. However, climate change has caused the country's average temperature to rise and mosquito-borne diseases to be prevalent in more regions. Data provided by the Ministry of Health suggests that dengue has infected people in at least 65 of Nepal's 77 districts. In 2019, more than 9,000 people were diagnosed with the disease, and six people died.
Before 2006, Nepal had never experienced a severe outbreak of dengue, but in recent years this has changed drastically. At the time of writing in September 2022, more than 25,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease, and 30 have passed away.
Other mosquito-transmitted diseases that can be found in Nepal include malaria, Japanese encephalitis, zika virus, chikungunya, and west Nile virus. During the monsoon season and post-monsoon season (June to September), there is a high risk of contracting any of these diseases due to a significant increase in the mosquito population.
How to Avoid Dengue and Other Illnesses
There are certain areas that should be avoided, or extra precautions should be taken.
- Dengue is prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.
- Mosquitoes that carry dengue feed at all times of the day; however, the risk is highest in the early morning and late evening.
- Removing standing water, uncovered water tanks, old tires, and other items that might collect water will help to reduce the areas where mosquitoes lay eggs, thus reducing the population of the insects.
Other Preventive measures
- Use an insect repellant that contains 20-30% DEET or 20% Picaridide on all exposed skin and reapply often.
- Wear neutral-colored clothing (ex., Beige, light grey) that is loose and long-sleeved. This will help to avoid insect bites and also keep you cool in warm climates.
- Spray outer layers of clothing with repellant before going outside.
- Check window screens and keep doors closed to keep mosquitoes from entering your home.
- Apply sunscreen first and follow with repellant 20 minutes later.
- While a vaccine has been recently developed, it is not widely available.
Generally speaking, most people who become infected with dengue only have mild symptoms.
- Symptoms usually appear between four and seven days after the infecting bite.
- They are similar to influenza, including abrupt high fever, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, headaches, and a rash.
Some cases can become more severe, known as Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF). This can cause issues with circulation, which can lead to death.
Medical Care in Nepal
If you are in need of medical attention, Kathmandu has the best medical facilities in the country. Small towns and villages have lower-quality health facilities, which often cannot handle severe illnesses. While the odds of falling seriously ill when trekking are low, it is still very important to have travel insurance. If you plan on trekking, be sure to check with your insurance agent to ensure that you will be covered at whatever altitude you plan on hiking to. Furthermore, some doctors will recommend malaria medication if you plan on traveling in the more tropical area of Nepal (the Terai in the south).
We strongly suggest speaking with a travel doctor before you travel. While it is not required to receive all immunizations, depending on your medical history and personal concerns, it may be something you want to pursue.
In the instance that you do fall ill, our guides will provide you with instructions, tips, and techniques to assist you. If you need to be evacuated, we can also help with those processes. Our most important tip is to stay calm, as we will always ensure you receive the best possible medical care in the shortest amount of time.
While trekking, it can be difficult to find medical attention for severe issues. This is why it is essential to have health insurance to cover evacuation by helicopter if necessary. Our guides carry a first-aid kit for minor injuries or health problems and are trained to handle all kinds of illnesses. Always do your best to stay calm and trust our expert team to have appropriate medicine and find the best facilities to ensure you are comfortable.
What Kind of Travel Insurance Should I get?
As previously mentioned, it is crucial to have travel insurance while adventuring in Nepal. We suggest a policy that covers fraud, failure, and medical conditions. A wide range of policies are available, so be sure to read the terms carefully. Many regulations prohibit ‘dangerous practices,’ including motorcycle riding, trekking, and adventure sports such as bungee jumping or white river rafting. However, other policies cover such activities as long as they are done legally.
Furthermore, you should choose a policy that includes medical and emergency repatriation, including helicopter evacuation for trekkers and general medical evacuation. Before purchasing your policy, check the highest altitude of your trek and be sure that elevation will not inhibit medical evacuation if required.
Many people also choose a policy that pays physicians or clinics rather than having to pay and wait for their insurance to cover the cost later. Almost all medical care in Nepal needs to be paid for at the point of service. If your insurance provider does not pay the initial charge, be sure to get a copy of the receipt to receive compensation later.
In most cases, traveling in Nepal is easy, and few travelers deal with severe health issues; it is important to take the appropriate precautions and purchase insurance that will cover your travels and activities. Additionally, if you are planning to travel to Nepal during the summer months, be sure to bring repellant, wear long-sleeved clothing, and always inform your guide if you are not feeling well.
We, Nepal Hiking Team is always available to ensure your holidays are free of problems and any health concerns are addressed in the best, most efficient way possible.