From September 5 to 20, the state health department will conduct a leprosy detection drive in 22 districts. The primary aim of the drive is to find out ‘hidden cases’ of leprosy in the high endemic 234 blocks in these districts under the National Leprosy Eradication Program.
The fight against leprosy, it seems, is far from over. India is home to 60 per cent of the world’s leprosy patients. As many as 4,134 new cases of leprosy were found in the same drive that was launched last year in 15 districts.
While thousands of new leprosy cases in the country go undiagnosed and untreated, the purpose of this drive is to detect such cases and provide the essential treatment to these patients.
Leprosy is a slow growing bacterial infection caused by bacterium called Mycobacterium leprae. Unfortunately, there is no preventive vaccine against leprosy yet. But it can be easily prevented from worsening or spreading with early detection and treatment.
If left untreated, leprosy can bring about permanent damage to the skin, arms, legs, feet, nerves and eyes. It can also result in kidney failure, blindness, muscle weakness and nosebleeds etc.
Dr Sanjiv Kambale, Joint Director of Health Services (leprosy) from Maharashtra, said, “Incubation period for leprosy is from three years to 20 years. For the severe patients we are also going to conduct some operative procedures. The effort will also be made to tackle the stigma associated with the disease. Soon after the drive, we will start administering the drug Rifampicin, as preventive measure to people in contact with leprosy patients.”
Gadchiroli, Chandrapur, Gondia, Bhandara, Wardha, Nagpur, Amravati, Yawatmal, Washim, Dhule, Nandurbar, Jalgaon, Nashik, Palghar, Thane, Raigad, Pune, Solapur, Akola, Osmanabad, Nanded and Latur are the 22 districts in which the drive will be conducted.
The diagnosed patients will then be given MDT (multi-drug-therapy) treatment which uses three antibiotics, namely Rifampin, Clofazimine and Dapsone. Since the last year, a majority of cases in Maharashtra were found at Palghar, Gadchiroli and Chandrapur.
30,000 teams consisting of ASHA workers along with one field level male heath worker will be formed, as a part of the drive. This drive will involve 5.5 crore people, to be screened from Maharashtra.
In 2006, India declared to have eliminated Leprosy as a public health problem, as the prevalence rate in 10,000 became less than one. The study highlights that Leprosy remains a public health problem in Maharashtra as the prevalence rate remains more than one. Also, the annual new case detection rate in Maharashtra is recorded to be 22.36 per one lakh population, adding burden to national prevalence rate.
In 2016, the Indian government had rolled out a leprosy vaccination program in some states. Dr Kamble informed that Maharashtra doesn’t have such program yet, but, the option can be considered in future.