The day aims to spread awareness about leprosy, the impact of discrimination and social stigma attached to the disease.
World Leprosy Day, observed on the last Sunday of January, focuses on the target of zero cases of leprosy-related disabilities in children. Disabilities do not occur overnight, but happen after a prolonged period of undiagnosed disease.
Early detection is key to achieve this target, alongside scaling up interventions to prevent leprosy transmission.
It is important to highlight that leprosy can be cured with certain medications if diagnosed in early stages. This year the theme of World Leprosy Day 2019 is ending discrimination, stigma and prejudice attached to the disease.
The focus of the state health department is now to zero cases of leprosy related disability in children. The department is taking many active steps like making school health doctors aware about leprosy and conducting awareness programs at school level.
Dr Padmaja Jogewar, Joint Director of Health Services, Pune, said, “Our target is to achieve zero cases of leprosy-related disabilities in children. Migratory population, out of school children and tribal children; are specifically to be monitored. We have informed our ground level staff accordingly.”
From April 2018 to November 2018, the state registered total of 11,602 cases, out of which 1,063 were child leprosy cases. During the same time, Pune registered 373 cases out of which 33 were child leprosy cases.
Dr Sumedh Andurkar, assistant director of health services (leprosy), Pune, said, “Our focus is on reducing child leprosy and completely eliminating leprosy-related disability among children. It can happen when the case is brought to the hospital at early stage. Unfortunately, delay in diagnosis is still causing disability among children.”
This chronic disease can be passed on from one person to another or even by breathing airborne droplets from the affected individuals. Even cough and sneezes, or coming into contact with the affected individual nasal fluids could lead to leprosy. The infection can be contracted at any age.
The disease affects not only the skin, but also the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes. If left untreated, leprosy can lead to muscle weakness, significant disability, disfigurement, permanent nerve damage in the arms and legs and even loss of sensation in the body.
How is leprosy treated?
WHO developed a multidrug therapy in 1995 to cure all types of leprosy. The drug is available free of cost all over the world. There are some other antibiotics as well that treat leprosy by killing the bacteria that causes the disease.