Leprosy detection fell during pandemic: report
- The COVID-19 pandemic and its recommendations on social distancing and lockdowns caused a fall of 62.5% in the detection of active leprosy cases between April and September 2020 when compared in four States
- In 2019, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh accounted for 35% of the total new leprosy cases reported in the country.
- The latest report by Leprosy Mission Trust India, “The Pandemic and the People’s Plight’’, says that active case finding activities were suspended in most States since April 2020.
Findings of the report
- Proportions of multibacillary (MB) leprosy and grade-2 disability (G2D) among the new cases increased by 20% and 12%.
- The proportion of both women and children among new cases decreased by 70%.
- These figures were shared by the National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP), notes the report.
- The report has constraints in terms of the sample size it reached out to.
- Report: people undergoing leprosy treatment need to visit hospitals regularly for their routine medical needs such as blood pressure monitoring, ulcer dressing, medicines (multidrug therapy or MDT blister packs, and steroids), and micro-cellular rubber (MCR) footwear.
- Leprosy is also known as Hansen’s Disease.
- It is a chronic, progressive bacterial infection caused by a Mycobacterium Leprae
- Areas of Infection: Skin, Peripheral nerves, Upper respiratory tract and Lining of the nose.
- Mode of Transmission: Mainly by breathing airborne droplets from the affected individuals. It can be contacted at any age.
- Symptoms: Red patches on the skin, skin lesion, numbness in arms, hands, and legs, ulcers on the soles of feet, muscle Weakness and excessive weight loss.
- The long incubation period makes it difficult for doctors to determine when and where the person got infected.
- If not treated on time, Leprosy can lead to significant disability, disfigurement, permanent nerve damage in arms and legs and even loss of sensation in the body.
- Cure: Leprosy is curable with the combination of drugs known as Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT).
Steps Taken by India to Eliminate Leprosy
- National Leprosy Control Programme in 1955 by Government.
- 1970s: A definite cure was identified in the form of Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT).
- The National Leprosy Eradication Programme: achieved the goal of elimination of leprosy as a public health problem, defined as less than 1 case per 10,000 * Population, at the National Level in December 2005.
- 2016: draconian colonial era’s Lepers Act was repealed.
- 2017: SPARSH Leprosy Awareness Campaign was launched to promote awareness and address the issues of stigma and discrimination.
- 2019: Lok Sabha passed a Bill seeking to remove Leprosy as a ground for divorce.
- Of all the things that the COVID-19 pandemic taught us, the most important was, the fact that the ‘vulnerable population’ is not a homogenous entity.
- Their vulnerability is sometimes a complex intersection of different social variables: poverty, disability, stigma, exclusion, etc.
- Much to our dismay, the pandemic demonstrated how it affects different vulnerable groups differently, with adverse consequences being the constant factor.