SRINAGAR — On World Hepatitis Day, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) expressed pressing concern over the surge in hepatitis cases which has reached epidemic proportions in Kashmir.
“Drug abuse and unhygienic dental practices are responsible for the hepatitis epidemic in the valley,” said DAK President Dr. Nisar-ul-Hassan in a statement issued to the news agency KNO.
Dr. Hassan said Kashmir is witnessing an alarming rise in drug abuse cases over the past few decades. “Drug addicts are at a higher risk of contracting hepatitis and have the potential to spread this deadly infection to others,” he said.
In a recent study conducted at the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences Kashmir, 72% of drug addicts were found to have Hepatitis C infection.
“Research has found that each drug addict infected with hepatitis virus is likely to infect 20 others and this rapid transmission of the disease occurs within the first three years of initial infection,” he said.
The DAK President said another reason for the high rates of Hepatitis infection is unhygienic dental practices in Kashmir.
“Most of the dental clinics use unsterilized or improperly sterilized instruments. The tools are not cleaned in between patients. The disposable items which are for single-use are reused on patients. Unsterile needles are used in multiple-dose medication vials,” he said
“Dentists do not change gloves in between patients and use the same gloves for every patient that leads to cross-infection,” he said and added, “Patients are not screened for hepatitis prior to intervention, resulting in the transfer of these viruses from one patient to another.”
Dr. Nisar said Hepatitis B and C infections are serious medical conditions and infected patients may not have outward symptoms of the disease for many years. The delayed onset makes screening important.
Hepatitis B and C are common causes of Cirrhosis or scarring of the liver which can cause liver failure and even cancer.
“While the Hepatitis B vaccine was included in the routine/universal immunization programme after 2006, many people above 17 years are unvaccinated. People should get vaccinated against hepatitis B as soon as possible to protect themselves from getting the virus,” he said.
“Hepatitis C has no vaccine, but there are ways to prevent the disease. And, if detected early, this is one of the few viral infectious diseases with great cure rates,” he added.