The discovery of more than 100 bodies in the remote Himalayan region of Nepal, the first such finding in the region since an avalanche in 2016, has reignited debate over the nature of the natural phenomenon known as Himalayan mountain sickness.
More than 70 people have been confirmed dead, most of them from Nepal, while at least another 100 remain missing.
“There are many more bodies to come and we don’t have an accurate count yet, but it’s going to increase every day,” said Rupa Parikh, a retired professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University who led the investigation of the mountain sickness in Bangladesh.
“We have more than 2,000 people who have been killed by the sickness.”
Himalayan mountain syndrome, also known as the Himalayan Snowball Syndrome, is a form of cold-weather stress syndrome that can result in acute bouts of extreme cold, fatigue, muscle pain and severe loss of appetite.
The illness, which affects millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, can also cause breathing problems and other health problems.
Parsikh said the latest findings are not definitive proof that the disease was a factor in the Nepal deaths.
“It’s still a very complicated picture, but there are a lot of possibilities,” she said.
“Somebody may have had it, and then another person may have not had it.”
According to Parikh’s report, more than 30,000 Himalayan people died during the pandemic.
More:In the wake of the pandemics, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed Himalayan Mountain sickness as a threatened species, with its population predicted to drop by a third.
Parikh said it was too early to tell whether the pandemer was responsible for the deaths in Nepal, but she said it did not matter to her as she would still want to find out.
“I don’t think the deaths were random, but the way it was recorded and the way the cases were reported is still really puzzling,” she told the BBC.
“We are all trying to work out what the underlying causes were.
I’m still not quite sure.”