6 years after leprosy eliminated in India, the disease is now rapidly spreading again

August 7, 2011NEW DELHI – Six years after leprosy was declared officially eliminated in India, officials and doctors are warning that the disfiguring disease is spreading in poverty-stricken pockets of the country. The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) in India, Nata Menabde, told AFP in an interview that nearly a third of India’s districts needed urgent attention to address the spread of new infections. “There are about 209 out of 640 districts where the number of new cases exceeds the WHO target of less than 10 new cases per 100,000,” she said. “India is the biggest contributor to the global burden with 120,000 new cases per year,” she added. Leprosy, an ancient disease which causes lesions on the skin and attacks nerves in the hands and feet, resulting in disability, was declared officially eliminated in India in 2005 according to WHO guidelines on prevalence rates. The WHO allows governments to declare that leprosy is no longer a public health risk if the prevalence rate falls below one case per 10,000 people. Ten percent of the new cases occurring in India involve children, the WHO’s Menabde said. “The high incidence among children shows that the transmission rate is very high,” she said, calling it an early warning for the government. “It suggests that progress against leprosy can also reverse and it can grow and India can also lose its position as having eliminated the disease,” she said. Vivek Pai, director of the non-profit Bombay Leprosy Project, said a sense of complacency had crept into the government’s policy towards leprosy after 2005. “They changed tracks too soon, took their focus off and now we are seeing a rise in cases in certain pockets,” he said, citing the case of Maharashtra, India’s richest state and home to the national financial hub of Mumbai. “Just a couple of months back, the central leprosy division found that the number of new cases in Maharashtra has gone up from 9-10 per 100,000 in 2006-07 to 13 per 100,000 now. It’s very worrying,” he told AFP. “Many people who come to us with new infections live in congested localities like Dharavi, a huge slum in Mumbai. Sanitation, overcrowding, poverty, all contribute to the environment that allows leprosy to flourish,” he said. –Physics.org
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1 Response to 6 years after leprosy eliminated in India, the disease is now rapidly spreading again

  1. Louise says:

    Leprosy seems to me to be the most testing of diseases for human beings. Your body rots away for years as you remain fully conscious. Plus you are contagious and others run away from you in disgust.
    Twice in my life I had a connection with the archetype of the leper, a very powerful energy which took over my body, and I felt so horrible that it cannot be described.
    May God give them blessings.


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