The health ministry on June 1, issued an order for the dzongkhags bordering India and those having entry points to start mandatory health declaration at the point of entry for prevention of Nipah virus outbreak.

The ministry has asked the health sectors to put a team of health workers at check-posts to monitor all non-Bhutanese entering Bhutan from India starting yesterday. Bhutanese coming from affected areas will also be screened.

Anyone having symptoms like fever, dizziness, body ache, drowsiness, diarrhoea, nausea or convulsions are asked to visit the nearest health facility.

Senior district health officer in Chukha, Gopal Hingmang, said that starting yesterday, the dzongkhag health sector has deployed four staff at the Rinchending check-post in Phuentsholing to monitor all non-Bhutanese entering the country via Phuentsholing.

“We started screening from 8am until 5pm yesterday. If necessary we will extend the screening time,” he said. “We will continue our monitoring system until further directives from the ministry.”

Immigrants are asked to fill a health declaration form, which includes details to monitor their health condition.

“We ask them if they are suffering from any kind of fever, from where they are coming from, when they would leave the country and their contact details,” he said. “We also tell them that should they have any symptoms of Nipah virus, they should report to the nearest health centre.”

In case of suspicion, Gopal Hingmang said they have also kept provisions for isolation of the suspected individual. No suspected case was found yesterday.

Health In-charge at the Paro International Airport, Tashi Dorji, said all passengers that fly via India are asked to fill the health ministry’s health declaration form, which is collected by the arrival head.

The arrival head checks the form and if a passenger has declared that he or she is feverish, the health staff assists in risk assessment which includes enquiring if they are from Kerala or if they have been to Kerala in recent time.

“Currently, there are four of us to monitor them. We also have a backup team ready if required,” he said.

The passenger is then detected for flu fever by a thermal scanner and further by a hand-held thermometer, he added.

“If a passenger’s result is positive and also have the signs and symptoms of the virus, then as per the Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) we will direct the passenger to the hospital,” he said. “We did not have any suspected case today.”

The monitoring is carried out as a precautionary measure, Gopal Hingmang said. “People need not panic as the government and the ministry is taking all precautionary measures to protect and prevent Nipah virus from entering Bhutan.”

Dechen Tshomo