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Bhutan: Fever to get tested is over

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  • Bhutan: Fever to get tested is over

    A H1N1 (Swine Flu) 10 July, 2010 - The public health laboratory in Thimphu is seeing a decrease in the number of people coming to get tested for the A H1N1 (swine flu) for the first time after the influenza outbreak was reported in Bhutan in May last year .

    From about 40 cases a day, when the outbreak was first reported, the number has today reduced to 15, said medical technologist at the public health laboratory, Sangay Zangmo.

    After the flu was declared a pandemic by the world health organisation (WHO), and picked up by the media, a lot of people came to get themselves tested, said the lab?s officiating head, Chimi Dorji. ?They were alarmed, otherwise people don?t come to the hospital for cold,? he said.

    Since May last year, a total of 2,299 samples have been collected by the laboratory, of which 269 tested positive. Thimphu alone had 92 of the total positive cases. Each sample testing procedure takes about six hours, said Sangay Zangmo.

    After the laboratory received H1N1 testing equipments in May this year, they have tested 200 samples. ?But we still send them to Bangkok to compare our results and for quality control,? said Chimi Dorji, adding that they will not continue sending them to Bangkok.

    The flu did not cause any deaths in the country ,and observers feel that Bhutan should have first seen if the H1N1 vaccine that is being given to vulnerable groups was really required. Kuensel learnt that the Thimphu referral hospital lacks an isolation room, and is not even equipped to handle a serious case of H1N1.

    Health officials, however, argue that the vaccine for H1N1 was introduced in the country as a preventive measure, especially for those in the high-risk group, whose immunity is low. The vaccine stimulates antibodies against the H1N1 virus and also prevents spread of flu.

    Pregnant women, those living with diabetes, heart disease, and chronic respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis, tuberculosis, cancer, HIV, health workers and children below two years fall under the high-risk groups.

    Bhutan received 65,000 doses of the H1N1 vaccine for free from the WHO in May. Based on the total dzongkhag population, 63,000 doses were distributed across the country.

    The vaccine preventable disease program, to which all data on the number of vaccines given, has to be sent, said that they have received data only from 10 districts, including the Thimphu referral hospital.

    Until yesterday, the program has recorded 9,320 people in the high-risk group, who have received the H1N1 vaccines, since the vaccination kicked off on June 17 this year.

    Of this, 3,921 vaccines were injected to children between six to 24 months, 2,806 to those living with chronic diseases, 1,256 to pregnant women, and 1,427 to health workers.

    According to the health ministry, there are 2,541 diabetic people, 6,070 with heart disease, 685 with cancer, 166 HIV positive, 4,000 health workers and 28,000 children, who are below two years. The remaining, 9,538 vaccines will be distributed to those living with chronic respiratory conditions.