Outbreak of ‘Gastroenteritis’ in Zhemgang

It would seem that the east is been beleaguered by prequels to unforeseen outbreaks, which in the end always seem to have been avoidable.

This time ‘round, it’s an outbreak of ‘Gastroenteritis’ in Zhemgang Higher Secondary School (ZHSS), where 72 cases have been reported at Zhemgang’s basic health facility, the Zhemgang Basic Health Unit (BHU).

This month alone, two cases of Gastroenteritis broke out from two different schools. The test result of the Public Health Laboratory (PHL)  of Nganglam School which suspected it to be food poisoning at the initial stage showed ‘Acute Gastroenteritis’.

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines, caused by bacterial toxins or viral infection and it is symptomatic of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. The cases have been reported to the Thimphu Department of Public Health.

Sources at Zhemgang BHU said the cases started to come in from May 3. The health official said “more than 50% cases are from Zhemgang School including few cases from lower secondary school and the communities.”

Despite the huge number of students falling sick, classes are in progress as usual. The school’s Vice Principal said about 10 to 15 students remained absent ever since the outbreak and at times the number of absentees reached even 30.

However, it’s been said, in a day or two students will be normal after the medication and they will be able join their regular classes.

As part of safety measures, health officials conducted water-testing and found that the water was contaminated. Since the common source of infection is through contaminated water and, the water experimentally established to be poor and unhygienic, the health officials went and cleaned the water tanks.

Following that the health officials also conducted health talks with the students and carried out stool-testing and found parasites and blood in it.

The health official said the unit has done the most it could do with the available facilities and tools at-hand “We don’t have other facilities but from our side we did what we could do,” said the health official.

As of now, the situation has been contained and the outbreak is curbed.

According to health officials, the number of patients have started to decrease and currently only one patient is in the ward, who is currently stabilized and being treated with antibiotics.

Further probe into the matter by The Bhutanese revealed that the school has shortage of water, which lead to unhygienic conditions and thereby the mass-endemic Gastroenteritis.

Talking to The Bhutanese, a representative for the School, confirmed the problem of water shortage and its ensuing chain reaction.

However the school justified by saying that it is not a new thing but “this year they have been facing acute water shortage.” Adding that in fact  the whole community of Zhemgang is facing water problem.

The school is currently involved in putting their best efforts to help the students. Zhemgang Higher Secondary School has about 456 students, out of which 308 students stay in the school’s boarding facilities.

Since the students are under doctor’s advice to increase their fluids-intake, the school has been busy in provision of water and juice, and even the supplementary diet for the sick, like porridge.

Since the cause of disease has been found and the interim measures already taken by the Zhemgang health official The PHL, says “At this point our suggestion would be, to take boiled water since the problem related out there is caused by contaminated water.”


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