MB Subba

The number of people who have died due to suspected consumption of a toxin in Salamji village in Tsangkha gewog, Dagana, reached four after a man died in Gelephu hospital (GCRRH) on August 31.

Two women in their 40s had died in the Gelephu hospital and Damphu general hospital on August 28. The first victim, a 55-year-old man, who had fallen sick on August 25 died in GCRRH the next day.

The others started to fall sick after the funeral gathering of the 55-year-old man. The patients are suspected to have consumed bangchang (locally brewed grain alcohol) although the cause of the deaths is yet to be ascertained.

Six people altogether had fallen sick and two of them have been referred by Damphu hospital to the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH), where they are being treated.

All four were members of the same family.

According to reports, they showed similar symptoms including diarrhoea, shortness of breath, and organ failure.

Medical Superintendent of GCRRH, Dr Dorji Tshering, said that they had died of acute liver failure. “What I could gather was that the acute liver failure was probably due to some kind of toxin,” he said.

Such conditions, he said, occurs in wild mushroom poisoning but added that they had no history of consuming any mushroom. He said that there were also suspicions of the toxin coming from the bangchang.

“The bangchang is said to be locally brewed and I’m sure that they have been brewing that for a long time. If it is bangchang, then it has to be found out how it happened,” Dr Dorji Tshering said.

Blood samples from the deceased have been sent to the Royal Centre for Disease Control (RCDC) in Thimphu. Family members of the deceased are awaiting the toxicology report.

Husband of one of the deceased, Kedar Kumar Rai, said that family members were informed that the patients in JDWNRH were recovering.

He said that the delay in the toxicology report had created fear in the village of an unknown communicable disease.

“People hesitate to visit our house due to the fear of a communicable disease. This problem would be solved if the toxicology reports come soon,” he said, adding that it has been a week since the blood samples from the deceased were taken.

Kedar Kumar Rai said, “I’m also worried about contracting the disease if it at all is communicable because my wife and I were together.”