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Manipur Facing a Rising Burden of Hepatitis C, Say Doctors

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Rorrkychand Wahengbam
Imphal, July 27: With increasing incidences of Hepatitis C in the country, the infection is emerging as a major health threat in the country. In India, the prevalence of the Hepatitis C is relatively higher in Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, Manipur is also facing the rising burden of the disease, according to doctor.
As we observe World Hepatitis Day, Dr Goldie Longjam, Consultant Gastroenterologist of Shija Hospitals and Research Institute, Imphal talks about the high burden of hepatitis C in Manipur with the infection prevalent in general population  in addition  to iv drug users
“The problem of intravenous drug use has been prevalent in Manipur for the last two decades. Until now, we were only concerned about the rise in HIV incidence. However, with the rise in hepatitis C cases, the infection is now being taken seriously and is considered a threat to the health of the people in the state. IV drug users are at high risk of hepatitis C as the infection is transmitted not only through needle sharing but also through other injecting equipment such as filters, spoons, mixing pots and swabs,” says Dr Longjam.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus. In most infected areas in the country, it is primarily caused by blood transfusions with unscreened blood, surgical procedures that follow unsafe practices and the use of unsterile needles by intravenous drug users and even people living with diabetes. Secondary causes include sharing personal-care items such as toothbrushes and razors with a person infected with the virus. It also may get transmitted through unprotected sex. Aggravating the threat is the fact that unlike hepatitis A and B, there is no vaccine yet to prevent hepatitis C, which can lead to chronic liver disease, even liver cancer.
“When compared with HIV, HCV has a higher transmission rate from one person to another. Of those infected with HCV, about 75 per cent tends to develop chronic infection (over a long period), of which 7-18%  progresses to develop cirrhosis over a 20-year period. This could further progress to hepatocellular carcinoma (in 1-6%) or liver failure (2-3%),” adds Dr Longjam.
The problem with hepatitis C is that it is asymptomatic in nature and exhibits symptoms only when it reaches a chronic stage. “With nearly 75% of patients showing no early symptoms of the disease, the initial symptoms of the infection resemble that of common flu. Report any of these symptoms to your doctor, so that steps can be taken to test for hepatitis C,” says the doctor.
However, unlike earlier, the infection is both treatable and curable these days. With the availability of new generic drugs, the cure rate of Hepatitis C has increased up to 95%. These drugs are not only cost effective but also ensure minimal side effects.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis (HEP-ah-TY-tis) or inflammation of the liver is of five kinds: A, B, C, D, and E. Hepatitis A and E virus is transmitted through contaminated water and food, while Hepatitis B and C are communicated through blood and body secretions. The initial symptoms of the infection resemble that of common flu.
While hepatitis A is the most common form of hepatitis, hepatitis B and C are the deadliest. Prevalence of Hepatitis B is 3-5% while hepatitis C is 1% in India. It is important to stress that hepatitis infections can be prevented.
Prevention of hepatitis B & C involves practices to prevent contact with infected blood. Using condoms, strictly avoiding sharing of needles or razors, and making sure tattooing or body piercing is done using clean tools are all important measures.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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