Dr. Sher Bahadur Pun, a virologist, is serving as Coordinator of Research Unit at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital. His service as a real time pandemic communicator during COVID-19 has made him almost a household name in the country.
Dr. Pun is lauded for his contribution in research backed with local observation with regards to epidemics and pandemic like Cholera, Rabies, Dengue and COVID-19. The same champion against infectious and communicable diseases stepped in as a guest in Desh Sanchar Chautari and unfolded his experiences and aspirations.
‘The hospital, overwhelmed with a crowd of incoming patients almost 40 to 50 per hour and equal outgoing, was a huge concern for me after my appointment in the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Hospital, widely known as Teku Hospital. A doctor on duty had to witness 4 to 5 patients succumb to diseases. It ignited a question into my inner self-why no eye turned to such a ‘burden’? I firmly believed that the condition would be ignored yet further if not stepped on. Following my nature to look for [issues] that many are indifferent to, I dedicated myself to infectious and communicable diseases,’ he elicits his initial motivation.
JN. 1 is not a new variant but a new virus descendant of Omicron, he corrects as he finds some disseminating it as a new variant. ‘The emergence of a new virus is just usual and natural as they keep spreading in new forms, what I focus on is the severity with regards to the virus’. He guesses if the world faces any infectious disease pandemic in future, it may relate to complications on respiration.
Cholera, Kala-azar (Visceral Leishmaniasis), Dengue are neglected tropical diseases, he says adding funding for research is not available as such problems do not occur in the global south. Countries like ours don’t initiate research. However, the world presently is too small to neglect infectious and communicable diseases. Any disease can be spread to any corner of the world in no time like Ebola reached Europe and America from Africa.
Meanwhile, local observation is a must to generate local measures to control any infectious disease as the needs, styles and patterns of living do differ and they cause spread of virus differently. He puts an instance- restricting to collect water to fight against Dengue may not be feasible in Kathmandu since it is requisite to many for day to day living.
He finds the Dengue virus on every new outbreak is getting stronger and intricate. With the absence of timely alertness, Dengue may pose severe challenges in the coming years, he foresees.
He shares his disappointment on stakeholders neglecting Teku Hospital. The hospital stands as the only center of hope every time the nation is strangled through epidemics and pandemics but as the burden lessens, so does the voice to strengthen the hospital. With the COVID-19, many realised the solid importance of the Hospital and it was said that the capacity of the hospital would be expanded to 300 beds, which is yet to be materialized.
He reveals his aspiration to see the Teku Hospital turning as a hub in the world or at least South Asian hub for the scholars to conduct interaction and research. He sees the beacon of hope after enduring struggles as his research-based writings and journal articles are being widely noticed among international experts and consultants on infectious diseases. He asserts many medical personnel from Nepal being asked about him and his research. Such instances support his aspiration to make the world recognize the expertise from Nepal.