SHOPIAN: A hepatitis epidemic has stuck Shopian after 400 people tested positive in the Health department’s screening and evaluation of several villages in southern Kashmir.
The alarming figures, mostly of hepatitis B and C, are prevalent in Vehil belt of Shopian where 200 such cases were found recently during the screening. Initially, the Health department had conducted screenings of 5,000 people in several villages such as Shamshipora, Meminder, Amshipora, Kachdoora, Chatwatan and some adjoining villages. Of them, 200 tested positive, prompting the department to conduct fresh screenings of 1,000 patients, of whom 200 individuals were found to be suffering from the viral infection.
Chief Medical Officer Shopian Dr Abdul Rasheed confirmed the figures saying they have launched an awareness campaign that has roped in religious leaders, the Education department, the department of Integrated Child Development Services and local bodies. The blood samples of 400 people were forwarded to Government Medical College Srinagar for further examination. Of them, 100 have tested positive so far while the results of the others are awaited, the doctor said.
Despite the high prevalence, treatment is unaffordable for many as drugs for the disease cost Rs 10,000 for a month. “We don’t have money to buy costly medicines, and at the same time, despite several requests to the government, they too are not providing medicines to us,” said a person from Amshipora village who was detected with hepatitis and spoke under anonymity.
The Health department, on the other hand, appears helpless because of a funds shortage and is saying that they are able to provide medical assistance to only 100 patients for which they have collaborated with the Anantnag health services division. “Now we are going to meet Deputy Commissioner and Red Cross Society, and they may provide us assistance to distribute free medicines among patients,” Dr Abdul Rasheed told Kashmir Reader.
The cause for the outbreak of the viral infection is not known as yet to people in the apple bowl of the Valley. Broadly speaking, viral infection is spread in human beings through various routes. As per the World Health Organisation, hepatitis B is transmitted through exposure to infected 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 infected blood- transfusions of contaminated blood and blood products, contaminated injections during medical procedures and through drug use via injections.
For now, the Health department Kashmir has established a panel of experts to visit the affected areas and conduct physical inspections to inquire about the cause of the viral infection in Shopian, said the Chief Medical Officer. He said they have already closed several barber and medical shops in villages that might have been the source of infection.
“The committee will revisit the area and inspect medical shops, barber shops and dental clinics,” added Dr Abdul Rasheed.