Govt downplays marginal increase in leprosy cases
The Union health ministry has written to all states to conduct a special drive to raise awareness about leprosy, especially in villages, after the number of cases saw a marginal rise in 2017-18.
According to government data available till March 2018, about 0.9 lakh leprosy cases were reported, as compared to 0.86 lakh cases in 2016-17 and 0.88 lakh cases in 2015-16.
Although India declared leprosy eliminated in 2005 after reaching the World Health Organization (WHO) target of less than one case per 10,000 population, more than half the world’s leprosy numbers are from India.
Also, some states and Union territories that earlier achieved the elimination target of less than one case per 10,000 population are now reporting a higher prevalence rate -- Odisha (1.38), Bihar (1.18) and Lakshadweep (2.25). At present, India’s overall leprosy prevalence rate is 0.70 per 10,000 population, up from 0.66 previously.
“The numbers have seen a rise lately because of the massive campaigns we launched to track cases and put them on treatment. In such a scenario, there is always an initial rise in numbers,” said Manoj Jhalani, mission director, National Health Mission, Union health ministry.
“But the numbers stabilise after a point and start coming down eventually,” he said.
“Leprosy-related discrimination, stigma and prejudice are the most powerful barriers to ending leprosy for good, especially given the disease is 100% curable when detected early,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director for South-East Asia, in a statement.