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Outbreak of hepatitis C at Barnala village

Fear and anguish prevails at nearby Kalala village with the outbreak of hepatitis C as a majority of people have tested positive for the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

punjab Updated: Jul 22, 2013 20:38 IST
BB Goyal
BB Goyal
Hindustan Times

Fear and anguish prevails at nearby Kalala village with the outbreak of hepatitis C as a majority of people have tested positive for the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

The village has a population of 2,358 living in 428 houses. The health department has taken 41 samples of which 28 have been found positive.

In December 2012, in a medical camp, 370 people out of 870 were found hepatitis C positive. Going by that ratio, the actual number of infected persons might be in the range of 800 to 1,000. HCV has taken the lives of 25 people of the village. The village has no clinical laboratory or government dispensary. Health facilities are virtually non-existent in the village.

Most of the newly elected panchayat members are victims of the dreaded disease. Three panches -- Surjit Singh, Santokh Singh and Harbhajan Singh -- are HCV positive. Sarpanch Ranjit Singh Rana was also HCV positive, but he got himself treated.

Recently a blood donation camp was organised in the village by Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana. Ninety units were donated by villagers. Of this, 28 units were found to be hepatitis C positive.

Villager Kuldeep Singh, 24, said he had lost his grandfather, father and uncle to HCV. Now he, his sister and cousin are infected. The treatment cost is over Rs 2 lakh, so all cannot afford that.

Hepatitis C virus was identified in 1989. World Health Organization (WHO) compares HCV to a 'viral time bomb'. HCV is responsible for 50-76% of all liver cancer cases worldwide.

The health authorities have not taken the matter with seriousness. Even in 2010, 98 hepatitis C cases were reported from Kalala, Chananwal, Chinniwal and Sehjra villages. Recently, 13 cases have been reported from Kube village. These villages are in close proximity. The villagers still say unhygienic water is responsible for the epidemic. Health authorities have not made villagers aware on not to use contaminated and unsterilised needles, the main cause of HCV.

Civil surgeon Dr Renu passed the buck on to unregistered RMPs, holding them responsible for re-using syringes, making people vulnerable to infections. However, she failed to answer as to why her department had not taken action against such RMPs so far.

Such outbreaks are required to be notified to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project immediately by the health department.

The civil surgeon said she was not aware of the previous outbreaks since she joined only four months ago.

"We are instructing the civil surgeon to take effective steps and refer patients to Government Medical College, Patiala, and the PGI, Chandigarh. The civil surgeon is also being asked to take action against unregistered RMPs," said deputy commissioner Indu Malhotra.

First Published: Jul 22, 2013 20:37 IST