Dengue fever cases in Sarpang and Gelephu is on the rise. From 186 positive cases recorded last week, the number has climbed to 200 as of September 14.
In an effort to address the growing number of the fever, a multi-sectorial meeting was held at the central regional referral hospital on Saturday. Sector heads from various departments and organisations took part in the daylong meeting.
During the meeting, lack of support and cooperation from the public was pointed put as one of the main reasons for failing to control the disease. Officials from the Vector-borne Disease Control Programme (VDCP) said that residents living in the border town areas were reluctant of the indoor residual spray (IRS).
There were minimal participations from the community during mass cleaning campaigns and other preventive measures. Uncontrolled movement along the border areas and reluctance to remain under mosquito nets, especially among the infected parents also contributed to the growing number, according to officials.
Need to call a local public health emergency?
Of the total positive cases detected in the dzongkhag, almost 90 percent were imported, with patients having history of travelling to dengue endemic areas like Phuentsholing and Doksum in Trashiyangtse.
It was learnt that there is no restriction and monitoring practices put in place for travellers in the border areas.
Health officials said dengue patients moved casually in public transportation despite instructions from hospitals to maintain complete rest during the time of infection.
“There were two infected patients travelling in a bus from Phuntsholing to Gelephu last week,” said one of the participants. “They were reluctant to cover their bodies which posed threat to the other passengers in the bus.”
It was learnt that with the presence of the primary and secondary vectors Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in the border towns of Gelephu, Phuentsholing, Samdrupjongkhar and Samtse, the risk of transmission increased when an infected patient is allowed to travel in public transportation.
For example, if there is a single aedes mosquito in a public bus, introducing of a host (infected patient) inside the bus would put the rest of the passengers at risk of getting infected.
A single aedes mosquito can bite around 1,000 people in a day.
Should a local public health emergency be put in place, adequate measures including deployment of health officials and timely travel advisory would be made possible, according to the participant.
Delay in reporting cases were also found to be another reason for the outbreak of the infection in places like Phuentsholing.
Officials said that the first case of dengue positive patient in Phuentsholing was detected in April. However, containment efforts were carried out towards late June and early July months.
A collective effort
Despite the overwhelming number of dengue cases, health officials said that they have managed to control the infection from escalating into an outbreak in the dzongkhag.
Of the 200 positive cases recorded in the dzongkhag, 20 were identified as indigenous with no travel histories among the patients.
Preventative measures such as destroying breeding sites, constant monitoring of infected patients, distribution of long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLIN), introducing insect growth regulator (IGR) and spraying of IRS are still being continued.
However, health officials said that the ministry alone couldn’t help reduce the numbers from increasing.
A collective effort involving multi-sectorial coordination was called upon to reduce the infection rate during the meeting.
Staff sensitisation in their respective organisations was the first thing participants were asked to carry out. Weekly cleaning campaign to destroy mosquito breeding sites in their respective areas was also advised.
A monitoring committee comprising five to six agencies including health officials will be formed. The committee is expected to work along with associations (taxies, truckers, business establishments) and carry out preventative measures.
The VDCP were asked to step up their vector surveillances and initiate measures even before the onset of the breeding season.
Public awareness through posters and radio jingles and travel advisories to both drivers and passengers were asked to be carried out in consultation with the regional Road Safety and Transport Authority.
The dzongkhag and thromde administration assured their support in both financial and administrative areas.
Younten Tshedup | Gelephu