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"The worst is over"

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  • "The worst is over"

    The worst is over

    Rush to get flu shots, though there’s no reason for panic

    H1N1 Influenza A 2 August, 2010 - Unlike usual days, Sun Maya, 57, has been missing from the fields, while the rest of the villagers cut fodder for their cattle.

    The Dajay resident, and a mother of two, who does not attend village functions and meetings, watch television or listen to the radio, has been ignorant of the many awareness created on the many disease outbreaks.

    After one of her neighbours suggested that she get vaccinated and a face mask for herself, Sun Maya decided to visit Damphu hospital to check if she was one of the victims of the ‘most talked about’ and ‘dreaded disease’ outbreak in the dzongkhag.

    With her, Muku Dema, 49, who had heard about an outbreak of some viral disease, also tagged along to the hospital to receive an injection against the disease. “I brought my whole family with me,” she said.

    About 600 people visited Damphu hospital since July 22 to check themselves for H1N1. Most illiterate villagers visited the hospital only after hearing about the H1N1 outbreak and its vaccination.

    The first case of H1N1 was detected in Damphu, when 26 students from its high school reported to the hospital with flu-like symptoms on July 22.

    “We had sent five samples, three influenza A positive and two negatives, to Thimphu on July 23,” Tsirang district health officer Pema Dorji said. “All the three influenza A tested positive for H1N1,” he said.

    Both Damphu higher and lower secondary schools remained closed for a week.

    Health officials said H1N1 was like the common flu and that there was nothing to panic about.

    “Tsirang is endemic to typhoid and other water borne diseases like dysentery, diarrhoea and hepatitis A,” a health official said.

    A group of women await their turns for a checkup at the Damphu Hospital

    Health officials said they advised that schools be closed because H1N1 flu was highly contagious, which could turn severe among people suffering from diabetes, heart diseases, and chronic smokers’ diseases like bronchitis and lung diseases, and in pregnant women.

    It can cause complications in children below six years. “In other parts of the world, the flu doesn’t receive attention since it’s pandemic,” Pema Dorji said. “Here, with only a few pockets affected, we try to contain it.”

    He said the vaccination campaign for H1N1 in the dzongkhag started from June 17 till July 17. “The vaccination was given to vulnerable groups the health department identified,” he said, adding the left over were given to public on a first come first serve basis.

    “I think that created the confusion among the public, who complained about the unavailability of the vaccine,” Pema Dorji said.

    Health officials explained that giving vaccination during the outbreak would not make sense since the vaccine was a part of the virus.

    “It’ll take time to produce antibodies against the virus in the immune system,” health officials said. “It’ll take about one to two weeks to produce that antibodies.”

    Pema Dorji said that, with advocacy on the disease completed in schools, flu-clinic strengthened in Damphu hospital and flu-track activities initiated across the dzongkhag, the disease was contained.

    Damphu high school students returned to their classes since July 29 school and students of the lower secondary will resume theirs today.

    Meanwhile, Sun Maya returned home happy to learn that she had not contracted the dreaded flu, while Muku Dem was disappointed.

    “They should have at least vaccinated my grandchildren,” Muku Dem said.

    Health officials, however, said the disease was contained since outpatient cases reduced drastically since a past few weeks.

    Dagana higher secondary school resumed its usual classes from July 30, although about 30 of its students, who suffered from H1N1, are kept in isolation and not attending classes.

    By Tashi Dema
    Twitter: @RonanKelly13
    The views expressed are mine alone and do not represent the views of my employer or any other person or organization.