Flu outbreak rages near Everest base camp

Local doctors worry remote Nepal region is primed for a flu epidemic
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BY FREDDIE WILKINSON
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Over the last six months, doctors have detected a significant rise in influenza cases originating from the high-altitude trekking lodges of the Mount Everest region, signaling an alarming new risk for international adventurers and their local Nepali hosts.

“We haven’t had flu outbreaks like this,” says Prativa Pandey, medical director of the Ciwec Clinic in Kathmandu. “I’ve been here for 25 years, and I haven’t seen it.”

Last autumn, Pandey’s team noticed a spike in flu cases originating from the upper Khumbu Valley—the area immediately below Everest base camp, one of the most popular trekking destinations on the planet. “There were 40 travelers with confirmed flu who returned by helicopter to Kathmandu in October and November,” she reports. “There must have been many more sick people who did not come down.”

Of the 40 confirmed cases, 16 were H1N1, the notorious flu strain known as swine flu. Even more troubling, the trend seems to be continuing, as four more flu cases have been identified this April.

Spring is not the typical flu season. “Some of us are wondering if animals are keeping it alive, perhaps the yaks or birds. But most likely, a sick traveler has gone up there and spread it to the others,” Pandey says. “We haven’t seen it before during Everest climbing season.” For the several hundred mountaineers hoping to climb the mountain, the virus could spell serious trouble.
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PUBLISHED APRIL 30, 2019

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/a...camp-pandemic/