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India
03 Feb 2017

Leprosy makes a comeback in India

Leprosy had been eliminated from India in 2005, when the prevalence fell below 1 case per 10000 people.

However, in last six years, a massive increase of nearly 50 per cent has been reported with regard to cases with advanced stages of leprosy.

This development has alarmed the Indian government and has swung into action to eradicate it completely in the coming decade.

In context

Why is India the epicentre of dreaded leprosy?

What is Leprosy?

Leprosy is a mildly infectious disease which starts by damaging peripheral nerves on the skin leading to loss of sensation and discoloured patches. If left untreated, it spreads to larger limbs and leads to nerve damage, deformities and blindness.

Details

Leprosy: Is it curable? Is it contagious?

Leprosy is completely curable and an effective cure has been available since 1982.

In last 2 decades, 16 million people with leprosy were cured: the WHO provides free treatment to those afflicted with leprosy.

The disease is considered to be only 'mildly contagious' and only if there is constant physical contact with the infected person.

However, signs of leprosy can take years to manifest.

03 Feb 2017

Leprosy makes a comeback in India

Leprosy had been eliminated from India in 2005, when the prevalence fell below 1 case per 10000 people.

However, in last six years, a massive increase of nearly 50 per cent has been reported with regard to cases with advanced stages of leprosy.

This development has alarmed the Indian government and has swung into action to eradicate it completely in the coming decade.

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Sharp rise in new cases

2,12,000 people were detected with leprosy globally in 2015: 60% were in India. According to 'National Leprosy Eradication Programme' 5,851 leprosy cases with disabilities were detected last year: disabilities included visible and permanent deformities, muscle damage in fingers and toes.

Why the sharp rise despite available treatment?

Key reasons

Why the sharp rise despite available treatment?

Leprosy cases are severely under-reported for many reasons.

For starters, in early-stages losing sensation in some skin patches may go undetected by the patient.

Physical screening methodologies by health-workers are inadequate and superficial and cases go unnoticed leading to the disease advancing.

Despite leprosy being completely curable, there continues to be a stigma around it; people don't report it for fear of being shunned.

What

Future steps being taken

Physical screening will be made mandatory to detect cases early on.

According to guidelines, while screening a household, male and female worker will be present to conduct physical examination.

In last quarter of 2016, government conducted a door-to-door survey covering a population of 360 million and will continue the exercise.

The goal is to completely eradicate leprosy where there isn't even a single case.

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