Nima | Gelephu

Seventeen boys from Losel Gyatsho Academy in Gelephu is undergoing treatment for peripheral neuropathy, a common illness among the growing adolescents that have high nutritional demand.

Officials from Central Regional Referral Hospital said it was the first outbreak of peripheral neuropathy in the dzongkhag.

The school administration reported to the Central Regional Referral regarding 20 students showing the same symptoms of tingling,   numbness on the lower limb, and swelling on October 23.

Health officials from CRRH found out that 17 students showed the same symptoms and later confirmed it as an outbreak of peripheral neuropathy, which is common among adolescents because of high nutritional demand, CRRH medical superintendent, Dr Dorji Tshering said.

Officials from CRRH ruled out other comorbidities such as cardiac disorder that also exhibit similar symptoms. 

The deficiency of vitamin B1 causes peripheral neuropathy.

“These vitamins are water-soluble, which means there is no proper storage in our body. We have to depend on the consumption in form of diet for a regular supply of the vitamin in the body,” said Dr Dorji Tshering.

He said that a detailed physical examination and lab investigation was carried out and also analysed the dietary menu and diet history of the affected students.

“If this content is missing, within two or three weeks, we turn to show these symptoms of deficiency. This is more pronounced in the male because of high nutrition demands,” he said.

The school has been in a containment mode and the number of boarding students also doubled.

Two days after Losel Gyatsho Academy resumed classed in the face Covid-19 pandemic, five students reported symptoms of swollen legs and numbness on lower limbs.

Five confirmed cases were day scholars before the school resumed in a containment mode.

Some of them had been showing symptoms for over a month. Four reportedly are with severe symptoms.

The disease is easily treatable if the treatment begins early. “But, if not treated on time, it is fatal. Good thing is that we are constantly in touch with the school,” Dr Dorji Tshering said.

The assessment team from CRRH had recommended the school to use fortified rice.

The supply of fortified rice in government schools helped reduce the incidents of peripheral neuropathy outbreak, according to Dr Dorji Tshering. “Now they ‘ve taken the initiative to provide fortified rice with immediate effect.”

Principal Tshering Dema said that the school was trying to come up with best measures in face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The school decided to function in a containment mode with strict health protocols. “Getting medical services was one of the biggest challenges while running in a containment mode.”

The school worked in consultation with CRRH and initiated telemedical conferencing to provide required medical check-ups and consultations for the students.

Regular health screening is underway in the school to date.

One of the students with symptoms was sent home for the treatment in March and has not returned to school.