With more than 100 cases reported since last month, the health ministry yesterday issued a public notification of an outbreak of dengue fever in Phuentsholing, Samtse and Samdrupjongkhar dzongkhags.
Between June and yesterday evening, Phuentsholing hospital reported 33 dengue fever cases while Samtse hospital saw 46 and Samdrupjongkhar hospital, 42 cases as of yesterday.
Chief medical officer at Samdrupjongkhar hospital, Dr Kezang Dorji, said all cases were detected through rapid diagnostic test, which has to be confirmed through tests at the Royal Centre of Disease Control (RCDC) in Serbithang, Thimphu.
A team from RCDC and Vector-borne Disease Control Programme (VDCP) in Gelephu are currently in Samtse to monitor and control the outbreak.
RCDC’s clinical officer, Jit Bahadur Darnal, said the team visits affected areas everyday and is carrying out vector surveillance, indoor residual spray (IRS), fogging, and field investigations. “We are trying to control the cause of the disease.”
He said that all water holding containers in the affected area are investigated and if the team finds any mosquito larva in the containers, they are immediately emptied and the larvae destroyed.
Jit Bahadur Darnal said that more than 50 percent of the reported cases in Samtse are in the Royal Bhutan Army colony.
This year, the first case of dengue fever was reported in Pasakha, Phuentsholing in May.
Dengue fever is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito infected with a dengue virus. The mosquito becomes infected when it bites a person with dengue virus in their blood. It can’t spread directly from one person to another. Dengue symptoms show three to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
“If a person suffers from dengue fever symptoms like fever, severe headaches, pain behind the eyes, joint pains, and rash, the person should immediately report to the nearest health centre,” Jit Bahadur Darnal said. “We are also carrying out a survey where travel histories, and daily activities of the reported dengue fever patients are recorded.”
Deputy chief with VDCP in Gelephu, Tobgyel, said there is no specific medicine to treat dengue infection. “There is also no vaccine to prevent dengue fever.”
Tobgyel said protecting oneself from mosquito bites and keeping the surroundings clean to get rid of places where mosquitoes can breed is the best way to prevent the disease. “It is advised to wear full sleeve shirts and trousers during early mornings and in the evenings and to sleep under mosquito nets.”
To prevent mosquitoes from breeding, health officials advise frequently changing stored water in the house, clearing all discarded water holding objects like old tyres and drums, and changing water in flower saucers possibly within three to four days.
Tobgyel said immature vectors were found in refrigerator dipping pans and advises all to keep the pans clean.
“People who are infected for the first time tend to have milder symptoms, which sometimes can be mistaken for those of a flu or other viral infection,” Tobgyel said.
While no reported case has been fatal this year, health officials said that getting re-infected could be fatal. These include dengue haemorrhagic fever, a rare complication characterised by high fever, damage to lymph and blood vessels, bleeding from the nose and gums, enlargement of the liver, and failure of the circulatory system. The symptoms may progress to massive bleeding, shock, and death.
The notification states that dengue fever is treatable if cases are diagnosed early.
“This is the first time dengue fever is reported in Samtse and Samdrupjongkhar,” Tobgyel said. “There were few cases of dengue outbreak in the two dzongkhags last year but they were imported from Phuentsholing.”
Samples were collected from all patients and have been sent to the RCDC.