Once a major source of social stigma for those inflicted and the reason for setting up the National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) in 1990, leprosy was considered mostly conquered, with several states, including Madhya Pradesh, showing significant improvement over the years.
However, a recent report by the Director General of Health Services, New Delhi shows that the debilitating disease is back with a vengeance as incidences of leprosy have increased in the state in the past five years.
According to the report, the annual new case detection rate has gone up from 7.86% in 2010-11 to 8.90% in 2014-15. A total of 5,922 cases were recorded by April 1, 2015, giving a prevalence rate (PR) of 0.77 per 10,000 population. Also, a total of 333 child cases were recorded in 2014-15, which shows the PR of 4.81 among children.
A communicable disease, leprosy is caused by bacteria and mainly affects the skin and nerves. It progresses slowly with an average incubation period of three years. It has a low mortality but high morbidity, making the patient physically, socially and psychologically handicapped, especially with the age-old stigma associated with the disease.
The report also highlights the poor situation in Indore, which has made it to the district’s list of high endemic diseases for the year 2015. A total of 404 cases were detected during 2014-15, 316 cases in the year 2013-14 and 269 cases in the year 2012-13.
The administration, however, feels the increase can largely be attributed to increased awareness about the disease. “We have a very alert system. The Asha workers and health officers are made in-charge of performing door-to-door operations. Their job is to ensure that awareness about the disease is maintained at the grass-root level. So, an increase is being recorded due to this,” said Dr Sharad Pandit, joint director of health services, Indore.
The health department also says the huge influx of people from neighbouring states, especially from Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orrisa, was another reason for the spurt. “The actual prevalence of leprosy in Madhya Pradesh is less than 1 per 10,000 population, (but) the constant migration of people from endemic states worsens things,” added Dr Pandit.
An annual budget of Rs 12-15 lakh, excluding medicines, is sanctioned for the purpose. This year too, the state government has issued a special budget to check the spread of the disease. “We have an issue with migratory workers. Attempts are on... to keep a tab on them and hopefully the special budget will help us find a way out,” he said.