‘Infection did not spread from barber shops’

The people in Ooramana view with scepticism the study report presented by the Manipal Virus Research Centre.

Laboratories and barber shops are not the place from where the virus spread, local residents told The Hindu.

Bindu Santosh, an accredited social health activist (ASHA), in the area who was infected with hepatitis B, said that it is difficult to believe the result when so many people who have not visited a clinic or a barbershop also have got the infection.

She said that in her own house, the infection was contained to herself. “I took the precautions of personal hygiene with extra care when I got to know about the infection,” she said.

The infection was detected at a screening camp held in her ward, she said.

Like many other institutes who have collected blood, Manipal Centre also conducted a study, but the results are not satisfactory, said V. J. Sreenivasan, who was infected with the disease along with his wife.

Recently an 80-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman near their house had also contracted the disease and they had not visited any of the places which could have given an infection, said a local resident.

Mr. Sreenivasan’s mother had the infection two years ago but she never knew about it. It was only during the study that it became evident, he said.

However, the study as such has not given full answers to many of their questions, he maintained.

G. Arun Kumar, heading the team from Manipal Virus Research Centre, said that while the initial infection had come through unsafe injections and endoscopy at clinics and unhygienic dental clinics, the second-level of the virus spread in the society has been horizontal — to people within households and the neighbourhood. The virus has spread in clusters, he said.

The team’s findings show that the virus had initially spread in ward 1 and then came to ward 2. It was found spreading to ward 13 and 4, the two neighbouring wards of 1 and 2.

For this, the barbershops have been important carriers, he said.

The team had found infected alum, shaving brush used to clean the cut hair from the body. The virus has a capacity to stay alive in inanimate objects for seven days, said Dr. Arun Kumar.

Hence body fluids that dry up on towels or on bed can infect people who touch it. The horizontal transmission has resulted in reaching a threshold point in the disease explosion. There is little to indicate a sexual route of transmission of disease, he said.

Dr. Arun Kumar said that the district Health authorities need to create awareness among the population about the findings and provide them tips on safe and hygienic methods.

Dettol not effective

Dettol, which is considered a good general disinfectant is found ineffective in case of viruses. Washing with soap is more effective. Dettol, which is basically phenol, has been effective in controlling all kinds of bacterial infections and its use had brought down occurrences of many bacterial communicable diseases, said Dr. Arun Kumar.

However, soap is most effective against the hepatitis virus as it dissolves the lipid covering of the virus making it redundant, he added. Soap washing the wound is recommended against rabies too, he added.

T. A. Suresh, chairman, standing committee (Health), in the Ramamamgalam gramapanchayat, who represents ward 1 in Ooramana panchayat, said that while the study may have a point, it is difficult to believe that the disease could have spread like this. Many things remain unexplained, he added.

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