Malaria outbreak affects farmers and students in Sarpang

According to the Department of Public Health, Ministry of Health (MoH), it is the farmers and students that are most affected by the recent malaria outbreak in Sarpang. It is mainly due to their occupation, lack of preventive measures and behaviors that leave them vulnerable to the vector-borne disease.

MoH has issued a public health safety advisory to keep the public on high alert, particularly Gelephu, Sarpang and other districts along the southern belt as well.

While Bhutan has made significant signs of progress in malaria control over the past decade, this recent outbreak in Gelephu serves as a reminder of the ever-present threat of the disease.

A father aged 32 and a son aged 12, came to seek medical assistance after experiencing two consecutive days of fever. Upon reaching the emergency unit, the medical staff did Malarial Parasite (MP) tests and found the presence of Plasmodium parasites in their blood.

Subsequently, the father was treated in the medical ward, and the son in the pediatric ward, for 2 days. They both tested negative on the third day and were discharged.

Malaria in Bhutan is primarily caused by two species of parasites: Plasmodium falciparum (P.falciparum) and Plasmodium vivax (P.vivax), both transmitted by female Anopheles mosquitoes.

One of the health staff from Gelephu CRRH shared that the symptoms of malaria can vary widely, from mild to severe, and can even be fatal. The symptoms usually manifest within one to three weeks after infection, but in rare cases, the parasite can be dormant within the body for up to a year.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Bhutan has made remarkable progress in reducing the burden of malaria over the past decade. The number of confirmed cases dropped from a staggering 4,000 in 2009 to fewer than 100 in 2019.

However, it is crucial to underscore that malaria continues to be a significant public health concern in Bhutan, particularly in the southern districts of the country. The recent outbreak in Sarpang underscores the importance of ongoing attention and the need for sustained efforts to combat this disease effectively.

MoH is closely monitoring the situation and has taken practical steps to contain the outbreak. Heightened surveillance, timely diagnosis, and immediate treatment of cases are part of the comprehensive strategy employed to mitigate the impact of malaria in the affected regions.

Bhutan has long recognized the importance of combating malaria and has implemented a range of strategies to prevent and control its spread. These measures include indoor residual spraying, which involves the application of insecticides to the walls and ceilings of homes to eliminate malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

Additionally, the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets has proven effective in protecting individuals from mosquito bites while they sleep, an essential preventive measure.

Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in the fight against malaria. Early identification and appropriate treatment can prevent the development of severe illness. In this regard, MoH has been diligent in ensuring that those affected by malaria receive timely medical attention.

According to the goals outlined in the National Strategic Plan (NSP) for 2020-2025, Bhutan is dedicated to reaching zero cases of locally transmitted malaria by 2022 and achieving complete elimination of the disease by 2025. Bhutan, in collaboration with international partners and organizations like WHO, remains committed to the goal of eliminating malaria from the nation altogether.  

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