Only marginal fall in number of leprosy cases

Lack of awareness, delay in diagnosis attributed to failures in containing the disease.

The number of leprosy cases have gone down marginally in the State, even three decades after the introduction of National Leprosy Eradication Programme. 

Statistics obtained from the department of Health and Family Welfare reveal that the number of newly reported cases in 2014 are 1,263 in the State, with Bangalore Urban accounting for 148.

In order to ensure better implementation of the programme and create awareness about the disease among the public, a five-member team comprising Asha workers, state leprosy officer, deputy director - leprosy, senior consultant - leprosy, district officer - leprosy and a consultant from the Centre, has now been formed to visit districts across the State. The team would also visit patients at their residence to assess the causes and guide them on further treatment. 

Dr B Harshvardhan, deputy director, Leprosy, told Deccan Herald that the team would travel across the State, create awareness and help identify cases.

“In the recent past, when we visited the Siddaganga Mutt in Tumkur, we found at least 12 among 3,500 children affected by the disease, after they were subjected to examination. Also, a leprosy case was reported in the City wherein the patient was caught unawares about the disease, till the condition worsened,” he said.

Malnutrition and overcrowding are major causes for leprosy in the State. Most of the cases reported in the State are from Bellary, Bidar, Raichur, Chitradurga and Chamarajnagar areas.

“As symptoms show up only in the later phase, the patients are caught unaware. In the initial stages, the disease appears as patches on the skin and is mistaken to be normal skin infection. In a few cases, due to lack of awareness, the doctors fail to diagnose,” Dr Harshvardhan added.

Dr Harshvardhan said that in order to help identify patients, screening would be conducted every Wednesday at all the 176 taluk hospitals. “This would take place between 10 am and 1 pm. This would be done, with special focus on leprosy, in addition to screening for other skin ailments at the Sparsh Clinic,” he added.

Lack of awareness 

Even as the officials in the department claim that due to lack of awareness the disease goes undiagnosed, there is very little that the State government has done to educate the mass. 

Suresh, president, Leprosy Association said that even as January is considered as “Leprosy Awareness month,” there are hardly any events nor educative programmes organised.

“There is a strong need for creating awareness among the public. The stigma attached to the disease can be reduced to a large extent, even by putting up or organising awareness programmes,” he added. 

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