India hepatitis death toll reaches 38

Other News Materials 22 February 2009 17:43 (UTC +04:00)

The death toll from an outbreak of hepatitis B in India's western Gujarat state reached 38 on Sunday as authorities prepared to begin a vaccination drive against the disease, CNN reported.

Hepatitis-B patient Mahir Husain, center, is comforted at a hospital in Ahmedabad.

Malayappan Thennarasa, the top administrator of the affected Sabarkantha district, told CNN the toll had climbed to 38 and that shots would be administered free of cost starting Monday.

Health officials have recorded 125 cases of the infection in two weeks. 

Authorities were carrying out raids at medical stores for bogus drugs and recycled syringes.

Police have so far arrested five medical practitioners. One of them was charged Sunday with attempted murder. The doctor is accused of reusing syringes, Thennarasa said.

Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease resulting from infection with the hepatitis B virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

It usually spreads through blood, semen, or other bodily fluids, often through sexual contact or sharing needles or syringes with an infected person.
The disease can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, chronic illness resulting in long-term health problems or death, the CDC said.