As new cases rise, leprosy in spotlight -Bindu Shajan Perappadan
Govt. views detection as a sign of better disease management
The rise in the number of recorded leprosy cases from 86,147 (in 2013-14) to 90,709 (2017-18), reported a decade and a half after India was declared leprosy-free in 2005, has turned the spotlight on the hotspots for the disease.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set the goal of zero children with leprosy and deformities by 2020, and less than one patient per million for other newly diagnosed patients.
Today, though, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra remain the ‘hotspots’ from which maximum prevalence was detected last year. High population density, poor sanitation and inadequate access to nutrition are among the reasons for the number remaining high. The Centre says a more aggressive detection campaign is being carried out, explaining the numbers.
The Leprosy Case Detection Campaign has shown that 34,730 cases were detected in 2016, 32,147 in 2017, and 16,097 in 2018. “We welcome the rise. It means we are catching these cases and putting the patients on treatment. But what the department is looking at is the new cases detected, the existing cases with leprosy-related handicap, and new cases in children. They are our actual ground check. The three parameters have shown a downward trend,” said Anil Kumar, Deputy Director-General (Leprosy), Union Health Ministry.
Moreover, he clarified, “The figures don’t tell us the actual story,” adding that that India’s leprosy management programme is running in a very aggressive sweep mode, after the “relaxed period” of 2005.
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