With no vaccine yet against Hepatitis C virus that affects the liver,the risk of transmission is higher among patients on haemodialysis. The National Institute of Virology (NIV) says at least 25 per cent of patients undergoing dialysis do get infected by the virus.
The incidence of infection is high at hospitals across Pune. We do see some high rates of infection, says Dr V Lobo,nephrologist at KEM Hospital. He says the HCV transmission within the dialysis environment can be prevented by strict adherence to infection control precautions.
Hepatitis C,a liver disease caused by the virus,is spread by contact with the blood of an infected person.
Chronic haemodialysis patients are at high risk for infection as haemodialysis process requires vascular access for prolonged periods,says Dr NC Ambekar,nephrologist at Poona Hospital,who also has a dialysis unit in the city.
He says there is a 30 per cent rate of hepatitis C virus infection,on an average,among dialysis patients at private hospitals,adding that not all hospitals have the dialysis machines and smaller ones send patients to larger hospitals,which may also explain the high rate of incidence of infection.
However,immunisation with Hepatitis B vaccine has brought down the the infection rate among dialysis patients. Dr SM Ambike,nephrologist at Jehangir Hospital,says though kidney transplants are a good option,there is still a shortage of donors. He points out that of 80 patients who are on regular dialysis,around five-six have HCV infection.
In an environment where multiple patients receive dialysis concurrently,repeated opportunities exist for person-to-person transmission of infectious agents,directly or indirectly via contaminated devices,equipment and supplies,environmental surfaces or hands of personnel,says Hospital Infection Control Society secretary Dr Nita Munshi.
A set of guidelines has been given to every hospital for sterilising their dialysis machines and several do not use the same machine if the patient has tested positive for Hepatitis C virus.
Haemodialysis patients require frequent hospitalisations and surgery,which increases the risk for infections. Munshi says medical guidelines require strict testing and monitoring of dialysis patients for hepatitis C infection,both at the start of treatment and every six months afterwards.