MUZAFFARABAD: As a result of poor hygiene standards and the lack of awareness campaigns, hepatitis A is fast spreading in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), doctors of the area have said. Hepatitis A is an acute illness associated with fever, malaise, jaundice, anorexia and nausea.
The disease is spreading at an alarming rate, especially in the earthquake affected areas of the region, where hygiene conditions have still not improved despite all the money that was spent on these areas to rehabilitation the health structure.
The Health Department has still not launched any awareness campaigns to educate the masses about this fast spreading disease.
The Khalifa Sheikh Zaid Al-Nayan hospital in Muzaffarabad has been receiving patients from the earthquake affected areas of the Neelum and Jhelum valley, Bagh and Rawalakot districts infected with hepatitis A.
A recent survey conducted by Dr Tahir Raheem Mughal, A General Practitioner (GP) at the hospital in Muzaffarabad, observed that at least 150 patients were diagnosed with hepatitis A in last two months.
“Acute Viral Hepatitis (AVH) is one of the most common diseases in the patients who visited hospital,” Mughal said.
Doctors have observed that the reason for the spread of AVH in AJK is through the fecal-oral route, which means that the infection travels from one person to another when a person comes into contact with something that is directly or indirectly contaminated by feces of another infected person.
“Though the hygiene conditions in the region have improved, the lack of proper sewerage lines adds to the increasing number of AVH patients,” Mughal said.
The sewerage system in AJK was functional, but after the October 2005 earthquake it was destroyed and has still not been repaired five years on. Another big reason for the spread of this disease is the consumption of contaminated water.
Health experts say that the need to increase the awareness amongst the general population regarding preventive measures and improving hygienic conditions is essential. Hepatitis A vaccine can prevent the spread of the infection but patients predominately come to the hospital late.
Two doses are needed six to 18 months apart to ensure long-term protection.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2010.
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