Agartala: The Tripura government Sunday launched an ambitious programme to make its capital Agartala a Hepatitis free city, considering northeastern India`s vulnerability to this highly contagious disease.
According to experts, the northeastern states are highly prone to various types of hepatitis, forcing the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to conduct a study.
Agartala Municipal Council (AMC), Tripura health department in association with Hepatitis Foundation of Tripura (HFT), an NGO, Sunday initiated the ambitious scheme to make the capital city Agartala Hepatitis free.
"This is for the first time in India such type of health programme was launched to make the capital city free from the virus disease," HFT president and renowned gastro-enterologist Pradip Bhowmik told.
He said: "Around 50,000 people irrespective of their age are to receive the vaccine at highly subsidised rate. The second and third doses would be administered May 20 and Oct 14."
Tripura Health Minister Tapan Chakraborty accompanied by AMC chairperson Prafullajit Sinha formally launched the mass vaccination programme here Sunday.
According to experts, of the six Hepatitis strains (A, B, C, D, E and G), Hepatitis B and C are the most dangerous as these are transmitted through blood.
The Tripura government in alliance with HFT, had launched the `At birth Hepatitis vaccination` programme since January last year.
The HFT is actively working in the northeastern state since 2002 and conducts mass vaccination of Hepatitis B and has attracted national attention for its unique battle against the disease.
According to experts, over 400 million people across the world are affected by Hepatitis B disease alone. Of this number, two-thirds are in Asian countries.
"India with wide geographical variation has two to seven percent Hepatitis B affected people. Northeastern states, specially among the tribals, have more Hepatitis B cases," S.P. Singh, secretary of the Indian National Association for the Study of Liver (INASL), told IANS.
The ICMR, the apex body to formulate plans, coordination and promotion of biomedical research and one of the oldest medical research bodies in the world, recently decided to carry out a study to determine the incidences of hepatitis in the northeastern region, bordering China, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The head of the department of gastro-enterology of Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) and principal investigator for the study, Bhabadev Goswami said that Arunachal Pradesh has the highest incidence of Hepatitis B infection in the country.
Goswami said that they would start work on the study within the next couple of months. The three-year study will cover the entire northeastern region, including Sikkim.
"There is high ratio of Hepatitis C in Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram. In Assam, both the infectious B and C are prevalent but incidence of Hepatitis B virus infection is higher than Hepatitis C virus," he said.
"To conduct the three-year long survey, centres would be set up in all the eight northeastern states from where blood samples would be collected and tested at the department of gastro-enterology in the GMCH," Goswami added.
Hepatitis inflames the liver, and is spread through various methods including prenatal transmission, blood transfusion, sexual contact, needle injury and intravenous drug users.
"Heavy use of alcohol is one of the main causes of Hepatitis B and C," the experts said.