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Keywords:

  • Bhutan;
  • H1N1;
  • influenza;
  • pandemic

Objective  Describe the influenza A(H1N1) pandemic in Bhutan.

Design  Observational study from sentinel surveillance sites.

Setting  Bhutan remains isolated, with only one to two flights a day at the lone airport, no trains, and only three major roads that enter from India.

Main outcome measures  PCR positive human respiratory samples

Results  The first case of A(H1N1)pdm09 infection was detected in Bhutan in July 2009, 3 months after the virus was first reported in Mexico in April 2009. During the official WHO pandemic period (11 June 2009 to 8 August 2010), a total of 2149 samples were collected and tested by RT-PCR of which 22.7% (487) were confirmed A(H1N1)pdm09; H3N2, H1N1, and B were positive in 2.2%, 1.1%, and 7.2%, respectively. The highest rate of A(H1N1)pdm09 cases (57.4%) was detected in the 6-20 year-old age group. Importantly, Bhutan increased from 3 sentinel sites in April 2009 to 11 a year later, and in April 2010 established PCR capability for influenza.

Conclusions  Despite relative isolation, the A(H1N1)pdm09 reached Bhutan within 3 months of identification in Mexico. The H1N1 pandemic has made Bhutan more prepared for epidemics in the future.