Starting September 13, the state government will conduct door-to-door screening to detect leprosy and tuberculosis cases. The screening will be conducted for a fortnight for a population of 8.3 crore.
According to state government data, cases found through door-to-door screening form 33 per cent of all leprosy cases in the state, suggesting that patients with leprosy symptoms do not seek a doctor themselves. Leprosy is infectious and its symptoms include white patches, numbness, and in advanced cases, deformity.
The data shows that in 2015-16, 166 leprosy cases were found in Maharashtra. In 2016-17, when door-to-door screening began, this number rose to 4,134. In 2017-18, the number rose to 5,073 and in 2018-19, it rose to 5,268.
The data also states that in five districts — Osmanabad, Palghar, Pune, Raigad and Nashik — over 10 per cent cases of leprosy were found in children, who are at risk of living with deformed limbs if not treated in time. The data adds that two children, in Jalgaon and Palghar, were found to have disabled limbs due to leprosy.
At a two-day national symposium of leprosy held at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) last week, the Indian Association of Leprologists recommended that the government should strengthen laboratory infrastructure to help early diagnosis, increase case detection of drug resistant cases and help remove social stigma so patients can declare that they suffer from leprosy and seek treatment.
“We are seeing more cases in advanced stages, where treatment becomes difficult,” said Dr V V Pai of Bombay Leprosy Project.
The data shows that Chandrapur, Gondia and Gadchiroli bear the highest burden of leprosy.
According to the data, India was declared leprosy free in 2005, which means that these cases were found in less than one per 10,000 people.