World Leprosy Day, held on the last Sunday of January every year, seeks to increase public awareness about leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease – a highly contagious infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae.
This year’s theme for World Leprosy Day is ‘ending discrimination, stigma, and prejudice’. It is said that the majority of those affected by leprosy are believed to experience some form of stigma and discrimination. And up to half of them will face mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
Uttareshwar Janrav, 56-year-old, is working as a leprosy technician with health department for last 26 years.
He has found a unique way to find out leprosy cases. He has counselled barber, bangle seller and tailor on how to detect a patch of leprosy. These professionals then inform him. With this way these professionals have helped in finding out around 10 per cent of total hidden leprosy cases.
“When I started my job, I found that professionals such as barber, glass bracelet seller and tailor can observe such patches which occur during leprosy. Then I started training them on how to recognise such patches. Today, in the total passive detection of leprosy cases around 10 per cent are coming from these professionals,” said Janrav.
Health department has felicitated him for his work. Every year January 30 is celebrated as anti-leprosy day. When India is yet to eradicate leprosy it is these ground level service providers who are helping to achieve the goal of leprosy free India.
Dr Padmaja Jogewar, state TB Joint Director of health services, Pune, said, “Our staff is actively detecting leprosy cases but passive case detection is still low. Such kind of initiatives by our staff is helping to find more leprosy cases. Early detection will help in lessening the disability caused by leprosy.”
Janrav thinks that government needs to have more staff on leprosy. “Currently I have Mhada taluka and two additional talukas called barashi and Pandharpur. It is a huge area and i am the only leprosy technician here. More manpower is needed,” he added.
“Service attitude is lacking in government servants. It is only when government employees are motivated that diseases like leprosy will be eradicated,” he added.
It is believed that leprosy spreads through contact with the mucosal secretions of an infected person. However, close and frequent contacts with an untreated person for a longer period of time can cause you to contract the disease.