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77 suspected to have chikungunya fever in Bhutan

Publication Date : 09-08-2012


Public health officials confirm the virus is now in the country

The Armed Force research institute for medical science in Bangkok of Thailand yesterday confirmed 12 of the 18 blood samples from Bhutan positive for chikungunya fever.

Six of the positive samples were sent from Phuentsholing, and another six from Samtse.

The public health laboratory yesterday also received 59 additional suspected cases of the mosquito-borne viral disease, taking the total number of cases to 77 in a week's time. Of the total, 43 are from Samtse, nine from Phuentsholing, four from Sipsu, 10 from Gomtu, eight from Kamji, and three cases from Thimphu.

All new samples will be sent to Bangkok today for confirmation.

One of the samples that tested positive was of an 11-year old student in Samtse. She had complained of joint pains and high fever. "It's been over a week now and, though she's recovering, her joint pains are persistent," her mother said.

Blood samples of patients with high fever and joint pains are sent to the public health laboratory in Thimphu for Enzyme-linked Immuno Sorbent Assay test, which checks the presence of antibodies the body develops against the virus, the lab’s head and microbiologist Sonam Wangchuk said.

"It takes seven to ten days for the immune system to develop antibodies against viruses, which is why all 24 samples we've checked so far came out negative," he said.

Wangchuk said the chikungunya virus is now in the country, and no more passed from across the border. "Indigenous transmission has taken place, so people should be more aware of it, and take preventive measures against it," he said.

Chief officer of the vector control programme Gelephu, Dr Lobzang Dorji said the risk of chikungunya is more severe in young children and young adults than in healthy adults.

"The mosquito that spreads chikungunya bites during the day, especially in between dusk and dawn," he said. "People should use long-lasting insecticide-treated net, even during the day, to protect babies and infants from mosquito bites."

The vector control team is also working on sharing information about the disease. "Weekly fever monitoring and analysing is also ongoing in the southern region, especially Samtse, where fever cases are increasing," he said. "A team was also sent to Phuentsholing for vector control measures."

Apart from chikungunya, Bhutan this year reported 79 cases of malaria. Most cases were from Sarpang, and two confirmed dengue cases.


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