A ProMED-mail post
Archive Number: 20130128.1518620
Date: Tue 29 Jan 2013
Source: Kashmir Times [edited]
The outbreak of hepatitis C in a remote village of Takiya-Magam, Kokernag has not only created panic among the residents of the area but has also left the health experts in a state of worry as they are yet to find out its exact cause.
After the reports that out of more than 1000 samples taken from the village during last 2 weeks 300 people have tested positive, a team of health and drug officials today [29 Jan 2013] visited the village and educated the people about the precautions to be taken to avoid catching the virus.
Chief Medical Officer [CMO], Anantnag Dr Gulzar, confirming the outbreak of the viral disease in the village, said they are trying to arrive at the exact source of the epidemic. “There could be many reasons for the spread of the disease, including the use of [contaminated] needles and sexual intercourse, but as far as the number of people having been infected so far is concerned, we cannot conclude that these could be the only reasons. We, too, are surprised over the spread of the virus at such an alarming pace,” the CMO said. He further said 30 percent of the cases having acquired the virus have never been administered injection. “We talked to most of the people suffering from the disease, but most of them said that they have never been injected in their lives. So, we too are surprised as to what actually led to it,” the CMO added.
He said that he along with a team of experts today [29 Jan 2013] rushed to the village to educate the people about the do’s and don’ts. “Keeping the alarming situation in consideration, we have started a campaign in the whole area to make the people aware about the precautions to be taken,” the CMO said.
Though the chemists operating in the area are being blamed for the spread of the epidemic by some locals, the officials say that they have not found any evidence against the chemists which could suggest their involvement.
“After the detection of several cases of hepatitis C in the village earlier this month [January 2013], a team of drug officials headed by assistant drug controller Anantnag rushed there and suspended the licenses of all the 3 medicates of the village for 10 days. However, during the investigations, none of them was found involved in [any] kind of mischief. Later, it was on the demand of the people of the village [that] all the 3 medical shops had to be unlocked by the district drug authorities,” said a drug official wishing anonymity.
Meanwhile, the Pharmacists Association Anantnag said the pharmacists are being targeted under a well planned conspiracy. “Some cases had been detected in the area 3 years back, and the health authorities were in slumber during all these years. Now, when the epidemic has engulfed the whole village, the authorities, in order to save their necks, started putting blame on the pharmacists. If any of the pharmacists are found involved in some kind of mischief, the association will not leave it to the government but will itself burn down his shop. I can tell you with confidence that it is only an attempt to victimise the pharmacists of the village,” said president of the Pharmacist Association, Majid Majeed.
Villagers have accused the authorities of leaving the entire populace of the village at the mercy of the chemists. “The village [comprises] at least a population of 7000, but so far, the authorities have not bothered to establish even a small dispensary in the area. Last time, when their shops were closed by the authorities, we had to approach the administration for unlocking their shops as there is no other option for the patients of the area. Now, if the authorities blame them for the spread of the epidemic, then why did they not bother to set up even a small health center in the village,” said Sarpanch of the village.
Comments: It is surprising to note the high prevalence of Hep C in such a remote region, without access to significant health care interventions. While contaminated needles appears to be the likely source, this certainly merits further investigations.