IMPHAL, February 10: Hepatitis C Virus is described as the “Silent Epidemic” because people who are infected usually show no symptoms as there is an incubation period of 2-26 weeks. This was stated by RK Nolinikanta, President of Community Network for Empowerment (CONE).
He was speaking at a one day consultation on sensitization of media persons on Hepatitis C Vaccination organized by CONE at the Manipur Press Club today.
He had also added that current HCV medications can eliminate the virus in upto 50 percent of people treated with hep C medications, while some physicians believe that hep C can be cured in some patients.
He continued that only 25 percent of hepatitis C cases of hepatitis C have been diagnosed. Symptoms include fatigue, flu-like symtoms, muscle and joint pain and rarely jaundice, he continued.
Elaborating further, he said major modes of viral hepatitis transmission include non sterilized medical injections, blood transfusion, injecting drug use and rarely through sex.
He continued about 200 million of the world’s population is infected with HCV and added chronic hepatitis C virus infection affects 20 percent of people living with HIV worldwide with the majority living in low and middle income countries.
Adding that relevant and scientific data of hepatitis is unavailable for the state, he said that independent studies carried out by researchers and medical professional shows an extensive alarming prevalence of HCV in the state particularly amongst the people who inject drugs, he continued.
He elaborated, “Some of the studies indicated prevalence rates of 92 percent, 90.4 percent, 92 percent in Imphal, 98 percent in Churachandpur, 45 percent in Bishnupur and yet there are no responses from either the centre or the state government”.
Regarding treatment of HCV in the state, he elaborated that since the cost of treatment is very expensive in the state, many patients are hardly able to afford the treatment.
Dr K Priyokumar, retired Nodal Officer, Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences, said the World Health Organization, WHO has characterized Hep C as a “viral time-bomb” because it can spread quickly and quietly for some time before the force of its explosive impact hits health care system.
He also highlighted that out of 3983 injecting drug users in the State, 22.49% were found with both HIV and Hepatitis C infections and that 20,000 people in the state were detected as HCV infected.
Informing that 20% of HIV and HCV co-infected persons will die because of HCV reaction even if the persons are taking Anti Retroviral Therapy treatment, he also focused on the importance of giving simultaneous treatment for both the diseases to the co-infected persons.
L.Deepak, President of Manipur Network for Positive People ( MNP+) said that several NGO groups and health activists had earlier approached the Central government and the State government to put its efforts in fighting against the silent epidemic in the state which is also common in other NE states like Nagaland and Mizoram where injecting drug use is relevant.
The seminar was also attended by Dr Chinglen Meisnam, Associate Professor, Manipur University; A Mobi, president, All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union; M Gandhar, secretatary, Community Network for Empowerment (CoNE) and L Deepak, President Manipur Network for Positive People ( MNP+) as facilitators.