31 residents of Leper Colony test positive for Hepatitis-C infection

Wasim Khalid

Srinagar: As many as 31 leprosy patients living in the Leper Colony on Srinagar outskirts have been diagnosed for Hepatitis-C.
Medical Officer, Leper Hospital, Dr Yasmeen said a team of doctors from the epidemiology branch of the health department were conducting tests in the colony.
“It was incidental that we came to know about the disease in the colony. A patient from leper colony had to undergo surgery at JLNM hospital. Before conducting the operation, he was subjected to routine tests and he was found positive for hepatitis C,” the doctor said.
“Later a pregnant lady was detected with the virus. And later after more cases came,” she said.
She said so far the health department has detected 17 patients positive for the disease, while 14 other patients were tested at private laboratories.
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease caused by a virus. It ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. If not treated properly, it can lead to death as well.
The outbreak has spread a wave of concern among the colony residents.
A member of the Leprosy Association, a representative body of the colony, told Kashmir Reader the first case was detected some five months back. He said the people living in the colony’s vicinity, in Lal Bazar, were avoiding contact with its residents.
“We used to offer Nimaaz in nearby mosque alongside the residents of surrounding localities. But it is not so now. The news about the disease has alarmed people. They do not come to the mosque where we offer nimaaz. It is so traumatic for us,” he added.
The fear-stricken inmates of the colony said they find it difficult to arrange money for tests.
According to the Association member, about 66 leper families live in the colony set up by the British in 1891. Not all people living there are leprosy patients.
Medical Officer Dr Yasmeen said the health department is “working hard” to control the disease.
“The cause of its spread is being investigated. In the meanwhile, we would be screening more people from the colony for the disease,” Yasmeen added.