Jalandhar: Punjab tops in the prevalence of hepatitis-C infection in the country, said Dr Naresh Purohit – Advisor, National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme (NVHCP), on Saturday.
Voicing his concern on the recent data reported by Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare , noted Epidemiologist Purohit told UNI here that according to the central government’s report, Punjab witnessed over 55,000 cases of hepatitis C in the past four years with 14,333 in 2021- 22 alone, the highest in the country. Of them, 4,325 or 30 percent did not complete the treatment.
“The efforts purported to have been made by the Punjab authorities over the past few years to eradicate hepatitis C from the state by 2030 have come under the scanner, ” he pointed.
Principal Investigator for the National Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme, Purohit stated that there are an estimated 70 million people living with hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection around the world. Persons living with HCV infection are at risk of developing liver cirrhosis and progressing to end stage liver disease and liver cancer ( hepatocellular carcinoma). He averred that globally, an estimated 700,000 people die annually due to complications related to HCV infection.
The renowned Infectious disease expert informed that hepatitis C is an infectious disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) that primarily affects the liver. During the initial infection people often have mild or no symptoms. Occasionally a fever, dark urine, abdominal pain, and yellow tinged skin occurs.
“The virus persists in the liver in about 75 to 85 per cent of those initially infected. Over a few years , it often leads to liver disease and occasionally cirrhosis.”he added.
He said that in some cases of HCV serious complications such as liver failure, liver cancer, or dilated blood vessels in the esophagus and stomach (varices) can occur.
He said that since it is a blood-borne disease that ultimately damages the liver, the main culprit is believed to be the unsafe and, at times, even unnecessary use of inject able drugs and transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.
“Unhealthy practices related to the reuse of syringes and injections are particularly widespread among prisoners in Punjab” he observed.
“WHO has set ambitious targets to eliminate HCV infection as a public health problem by 2030. In order to achieve these targets, which include reduction of new infections by 90 percent, and deaths by 65 percent , there is a need to increase prevention strategies and access to treatment, ” he added.