SRINAGAR: With liver failure and end-stage liver diseases on the rise in the valley, the doctors here say the only viable option for them is liver transplantation – the facility not available in Jammu & Kashmir.
Flu expert and Doctors Association Kashmir president Dr Nisar Ul Hassan said that the lack of liver transplant facilities is costing lives in Kashmir as cases of hepatitis and fatty liver are on the rise. Many people end up in chronic liver disease-cirrhosis, he said.
“The lives of patients suffering from chronic liver disease can be saved, but in Kashmir, they continue to be in despair and seem to have no hope of survival in the absence of such facilities,” he said, adding that patients are dying for want of liver transplant facility here.
There are hundreds of patients who cannot afford to go outside J&K for liver transplants and they end up with no treatment thereby they invariably die because of progressive liver failure, the doctor said.
In Kashmir, there is an epidemic of hepatitis because of drug abuse as they are prone to it and can give it to others as well during blood transfusion, the DAK president said, adding that the cases of Hepatitis B are coming to the fore as both Hepatitis A and B have no symptoms and most people remain unaware about it for years together.
Another reason for high rates of Hepatitis infection is unhygienic dental practices in Kashmir as most of the dental clinics use unsterilized or improperly sterilized instruments, he said.
“There is a need for population-based screening to find the magnitude of these diseases as Hepatitis B and C are common causes of Cirrhosis or scarring of the liver which can cause liver failure and even cancer,” Dr Nisar said.
While the Hepatitis B vaccine was included in the routine/universal immunization programme after 2006, many people above 17 years are unvaccinated, he said. “People should get vaccinated against hepatitis B as soon as possible to protect themselves from getting the virus,” he said, adding that hepatitis C has no vaccine but its early detection is a must for proper cure.
Meanwhile, a doctor working at a drug de-addiction centre in Srinagar told that the use of drugs, mainly heroin, is leading to a scary increase in Hepatitis C cases in J&K as around three among four drug users are Hepatitis C positive in Kashmir.
“We screen every patient for Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B and HIV and as per the hospital-based studies, there are around 72 percent of drug users who are tested positive for Hepatitis C,” he said, adding that the use of drugs via injection is quite common among drug users and the most common cause of Hepatitis C among them is the sharing of needles.
The doctor further said, “We have witnessed around 72 percent of the substance users have Hepatitis C and that it is a chronic disease and if not treated on time it can lead to chronic liver disease. For its treatment, the patient needs costly anti-viral medications for 3-6 months which becomes another burden on the family members of drug users.”
The doctors working with these patients said that sharing of needles used for injecting drugs is known to transmit diseases among the drug users, which adds to the suffering of those affected and their families.
“Without treatment, Hepatitis C can prove fatal and for most patients, it is a symptom-free disease which spreads silently to other family members and sometimes it can get transmitted to babies from an infected mother,” said another doctor.
He said that needle sharing among drug users is the main cause of Hepatitis C in Kashmir and almost every three among four drug users suffers from Hepatitis C. “There remain chances of them getting infected with other infections like HIV as well,” he said—(KNO)