Mumbai’s hidden leprosy cases spikes in 2018 from prev year: Health dept

As per data, 10% of the new cases were found in children — a sign of the diseases actively spreading —while 63% were reported to be multibacillary or in progressive stages
By Aayushi Pratap | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 13, 2019 06:26 PM IST

Ahead of World Leprosy Day on January 30, new data from the state health department shows more hidden leprosy cases were reported in 2018 in Mumbai compared to the previous year — 362 new leprosy cases were reported between April and December 2018 while 326 cases were found between April 2017 and March 2018.

As per data, 10% of the new cases were found in children — a sign of the diseases actively spreading —while 63% were reported to be multibacillary or in progressive stages, where the patient shows visible lesions on the skin.

“This is higher than the national average of 50% [multibacillary cases]. It clearly shows that the cases are being detected late,” said Dr Vivek Pai of the Bombay Leprosy Project, a non-governmental organisation which has been working for 40 years to detect and treat leprosy cases in the city. “If an infection is left untreated it takes almost five years for it to become multibacillary when it gets difficult to treat.”

Leprosy is caused by Mycobacterium leprae which mainly infect the nerves and the skin, creating hypopigmented patches on the skin that lose sensations due to nerve damage. Like tuberculosis (TB), leprosy is an airborne infection, making congested localities in the city ideal spots for transmission.

According to experts, the first door-to-door leprosy detection campaign that was conducted in Mumbai between September and October 2018 was instrumental in finding the new cases (52 cases were detected). “Six of these cases were skin-smear positive, indicating they are highly infectious,” said Dr Raju Jotkar, assistant director, health services. “The state has started a fresh survey of 200 households in the areas where these cases were found.”

The state now plans to conduct a second leprosy detection campaign in February. “There are plans to club it with TB detection. However, the decision will be taken next week,” said an official from the state’s health department.

In 2005, the Indian government declared the elimination of leprosy from the country because the number of cases had come down to less than one per 1,000 people. However, in the intervening years, new cases have been detected regularly and the Union health ministry’s deadline to eliminate the disease has been on a continuous shift.

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