Dengue cases continue to rise in Bhutan

Dengue. Photo by the Kuensel Online. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

PHUENTSHOLING, Sep 8, 2019, Kuensel Online. Dengue fever cases in Phuentsholing are on the rise two months after the outbreak was first reported. Public awareness and campaigns have been of little help. Phuentsholing hospital saw a total of 2,121 dengue positive cases as of yesterday, 313 more than the September 1 record. With 894 dengue positive cases reported from private diagnostic centres in the town, Phuentsholing saw 3,015 positive cases as of yesterday, reported the Kuensel Online.

Figures from the diagnostic centres, however, include both Bhutanese and people from across the border.

The scene at the hospital yesterday had not changed since mid-August, the peak outbreak period. In fact, the situation had by much aggravated.

Men, women, and children of all ages were in the queue for blood reports. Extra trollies were being brought for emergency.

Dr Thinley Pelzang said that the rise in the cases was because the people are still very complacent.

“Their poor participation is the cause for the spread,” he said. “Community should come up forward to reduce the breeding sources, both inside and out of doors.”

A mass cleaning campaign will be conducted today in the town. Close to 2,000 students are expected to take part in the campaign with dessups, health, drungkhag and thromde officials, among others.

Country status

The chief programme officer with Department of Public Health (DoPH), Ministry of Health, Rixin Jamtsho, said that 77 percent of the total cases in the country were reported from Phuentsholing hospital.

“The cases were reported from 19 dzongkhags till yesterday,” Rixin Jamtsho said. “Majority of the cases reported from other districts had travelled to Phuentsholing prior to their illness.”

Rixin Jamtsho said that three dengue cases were reported from Bumthang. All the three patients had the history of having travelled to Phuentsholing.

Despite efforts to contain the outbreak, there have been fluctuations with rain.

Outbreak in Doksum in Trashiyangtse has been contained.

“The people are advised to continue prevention and control activities to avoid a second outbreak, which could prove catastrophic,” Rixin Jamtsho said.


Bhutanese living across the border in Jaigaon are the most affected, findings have revealed.

Rixin Jamtsho said that 32 percent of the positive cases in the country were Bhutanese living across the border town in Jaigaon.

“Based on the findings, there is also a poor response to awareness and self-protection among the public,” he said.

DoPH findings showed that 56 percent of the respondents had containers, barrels, tyres with stagnant water in their surroundings. About 53 percent of the respondents still do not use mosquito nets.

Further, 65 percent did not use mosquito repellents, while 88 percent of the respondents wore short pants and shirts with short sleeves; 56 percent had flowerpots on their balcony.

Containment and preventive measures

Rixin Jamtsho said the health ministry distributed preventive and precautionary messages to all the schools, institutions and offices in the south to be displayed on their notice boards.

In the major public gatherings, announcements are made and precautionary messages continue to be shared through RSTA and at check posts. Media is also used to strengthen the advisory messages.

Thermal fogging was encouraged across the country and house-to-house vector surveillance was also being continued, Rixin Jamtsho said.

Desuups have been trained on dengue prevention and control methods and empowered them with the rights to inspect households, shops and hotels and surroundings.

Way forward

The health ministry is planning on a dengue operational plan for source reduction and destruction ahead of the rainy season. Dialogues are already underway.

Rixin Jamtsho said that a capacity building for dengue management would be initiated. A proposal has been developed.

“SOPs to develop early warning system and case investigation have also been revised,” he said. “Strengthening of vector surveillance and reporting system has also been initiated.”

Collaboration and coordination among stakeholders for the prevention and control of dengue outbreaks would be strengthened.

So far, the outbreak has claimed four patients.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

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