World Hepatitis Day: Hepatitis B, C is spreading silently in Kashmir, say doctors

World Hepatitis Day: Hepatitis B, C is spreading silently in Kashmir, say doctors

Blame lack of awareness, official apathy for spread of infections

Hepatitis B and C cases are on rise in many districts of Kashmir, with experts blaming lack of awareness and official apathy for spread of the deadly infections.

According to a 2016 study “Prevalence of Hepatitis B among adult population in South Kashmir,” 2.4 percent of those screened in Shopian, Anantnag, Kulgam and Pulwama districts had tested positive for this viral disease. In numbers, the percentage translates into thousands of people having the deadly liver infection. In 2015, cases of Hepatitis B were also reported from Diver area of Kupwara district.

The study has been carried out Dr Showkat Ahmed Kadla and others.

Similarly, Hepatitis C was first reported in “few cases” in 2012 from some villages in Kokernag area. However, a recent survey has shown that this infection has affected a considerable population in four districts in southern part of Kashmir.

The Government Medical College Srinagar study titled “prevalence of Hepatitis C among adult population in south Kashmir” by Dr Jaspreet Singh and guided by Dr Showkat Ahmed Kadla, has reported 28 percent prevalence of Hepatitis C in Magam village of Kokernag, and prevalence ranging between 0.7 percent and 3.8 percent in other districts.

In Anantnag district, 3.8 percent population has been found to be Hepatitis C positive, according to the researchers. This researchers have blamed unhygienic practices and inadequately sterilised instruments at dental clinics, chemists who dispense injections and barber shops for spread of the infections.

However, despite evidence of Hepatitis B and C cases on rise, no steps are being taken to stop spread of these infections, according to doctors.

A doctor said nothing is being done to create awareness about these viral infections.

“Who is monitoring dental clinics in Kashmir? How many of these clinics have an effective sterilisation system?” a senior physician in GMC Srinagar asked.

He alleged that in most areas, dental clinics operate without following the necessary hygiene protocols and authorities were sleeping over the issue.

Another physician at SKIMS Soura said state’s healthcare awareness messages were “out of sync” with its health issues.

“People in Kashmir are being given lessons on how to save themselves from dengue and malaria via radio and other mass media. What is the incidence of these diseases here?” he said.

He said there was no awareness campaign on Hepatitis B and C and this could prove dangerous.

Mission director, national health mission J&K, Dr Mohan Singh said the NHM had included vaccination against Hepatitis B in its immunization program.

Director Health Services Kashmir said screening of entire population in south Kashmir had started and this would equip the department to devise strategies to combat the issue. “We will have evidence-based interventions soon,” he said.

As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), more people die of Hepatitis every year compared to HIV with as many as 1.34 million deaths in 2015 attributed to viral hepatitis.

The WHO has warned that Hepatitis B is transmitted through exposure to infective blood, semen, and other body fluids. It can also be transmitted from infected mothers to infants at the time of birth.   Hepatitis C is mostly transmitted through exposure to ineffective blood- transfusions of contaminated blood and blood products, contaminated injections during medical procedures, and through injection drug use, according to the WHO.