Epidemiological Study of Anti HCV Antibodies in Rural Punjab
Background: Hepatitis C virus infection is a very serious and alarming public health concern worldwide. The virus is transmitted through blood and blood related infected products. However sexual and vertical transmission is also reported. Although the infection by Hepatitis C virus is endemic in nature but prevalence as well as incidence has escalating trend in Pakistan particularly in the rural areas. In the beginning it is an asymptomatic infection and majority of the victims remain unaware about the disease.
Objectives: To determine the sero prevalence of Hepatitis C in Rural Punjab, Pakistan.
Methods: A descriptive epidemiological cross sect-ional study was conducted from July 2013 to June 2015 in the rural Punjab of Pakistan. The province of Punjab was divided into three zones namely Central,
Southern and Northern zone. Three districts from each zone were sampled and later on three villages from each district were selected. Probability based sampling technique was used however in certain situations the total population was selected. A total sample of 2400 participants was selected with 800 from each zone of Punjab.
Results: A total of 2400 subjects from three zones of Punjab participated in this study. Out of these 2400 participants 520 (21.6%) were sero positive against Anti HCV antibodies. Anti HCV positive cases were higher (24.8%) in Northern Punjab as compared to (23.1%) in Central and (17%) in Southern rural Punjab respectively.
Conclusion: This study concludes that prevalence of HCV infection is highly endemic among the rural population of Punjab and accounts for 21.6% of the studied population. The prevalence is highest in rural northern Punjab followed by the central and southern Punjab. Drivers and helpers of the farmers are the maximally infected occupations. It is recommended to plan and implement a population based hepatitis awareness and screening campaign for the affected and general population.
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