Ahead of World Leprosy Eradication Day, the health department will conduct a drive in 222 leprosy endemic blocks in Maharashtra. India accounts for over 50-60 per cent of new cases every year and 1.26 lakh new cases were detected last year. Maharashtra recorded 417 new cases.
In Maharashtra, 222 tehsils/blocks have been identified or the detection drive from January 30 to February 28. The National Leprosy Elimination Programme conducts two drives every year, in February and October.
“This year too, we have planned a series of programmes and involved teams of ASHA workers, multi-purpose workers and others to visit 100 houses a day,” Dr Sanjeev Kamble, Joint Director of Health (TB and Leprosy) said and added that from April 2013 to March 2014, 16,400 new cases were detected and the figure was 18,715 in 2012-13. Surgery was conducted on 293 patients for removal of disfigurement and scars (Grade 2 disabilities). As of now, 10,770 patients are under treatment.
According to Dr Shobha Rajure, Assistant Director of Health (Leprosy), the 222 blocks have a prevalence of more than 1 case per 10,000, which is the ratio in leprosy endemic countries, according to WHO. The special campaign looks at early detection and treatment, Rajure added.
A special campaign has been planned so that early treatment can be started once new cases are detected, Rajure added.
“Besides being classified by WHO as among least infectious diseases, leprosy is not a public threat simply because the disease affects only 5-10 % of the population. It is cured through a multi-drug therapy (MDT) and the patient becomes non-infective within 24 hours of starting treatment. Disabilities occur only if the disease is left untreated for long, Dr Vineeta Shankar, Executive Director of Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation told The Indian Express.
Early treatment is the best way to eradicate the disease. Today, leprosy is curable with MDT but there are some pockets in the country where people believe leprosy “is a “curse”, a “punishment for sins” and the result of sexual perversion. These beliefs reinforce the stigma against the patients. Despite the fact that most of the patients who take medicine are cured of the disease, they are settled in separate colonies meant for them across the country, Shankar pointed out.
There are 32 leprosy colonies in the state, which have 10,824 people. In Pune, there are five leprosy colonies — Mahatma Phule Kusht Vasahat Solapur Road; Mahadeo Niradhar Nagar Leprosy Colony, Pimpri; Mahatma Gandhi Kusht Vasahat, Antulay nagar, Kondhwa; Minoo Mehta Kushtavasahat at Kondhwa; Anandwan Kushta Vasahat at Dapodi.
The Sasakawa Leprosy Foundation has started a sustainable livelihood programme for these families by sponsoring education of children and encouraging the youth to enroll in skill enhancement programmes. Chetan Minekar, 21, whose father has been cured of leprosy and stays in Ulhasnagar, says, “I enrolled for a technical training course in Pune and am now working as an automobile technician in Pimpri.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines