Page last updated at 06:42 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Gujarat starts mass vaccination

Hepatitis patient in Gujarat hospital
The police is looking for a doctor in connection with the outbreak

A mass vaccination of some 60,000 people has begun in India's western Gujarat state to ward off an outbreak of hepatitis B, officials say.

In the past fortnight, 43 people have died of the disease in Sabarkantha district, officials said.

Police are looking for a doctor who allegedly gave injections to many of the patients without changing syringes.

The hepatitis B virus is transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.

The virus can be transmitted via unprotected sex or sharing of contaminated needles. Pregnant mothers also tend to pass it on to their babies.


Sabarkantha district official M Thennarasan told the BBC another 80 people had been admitted to a local hospital with symptoms of hepatitis B.

He said that nearly 56,000 people in Modasa town, where people have been infected with the virus, had been vaccinated by government doctors on Monday.


The remaining 4,000 people in the town would be vaccinated on Tuesday, he said.

Federal and state health authorities are investigating the cause of the outbreak.

Early investigations had revealed that some of the patients had received injections from a local doctor who ran a clinic in the town a few months ago, Mr Thennarasan said.

"Some patients have said that the doctor had not changed syringes or used disposable ones during the injections."

Police are looking for the absconding doctor and his clinic had been sealed.

"This could be one of the reasons behind the spread of the disease in the town. We cannot rule out other reasons," Mr Thennarasan said.

Earlier, officials said that there was "no pattern" in the class and work profile of the patients.

The virus can cause fever, fatigue, muscle or joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.

Chronic carriers have an increased risk of developing liver disease such as cirrhosis or liver cancer, because the hepatitis B virus steadily attacks the liver.

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