Aiming at eradicating leprosy by 2018, the state government has kick-started a second round of intensive door-to-door screening to diagnose hidden leprosy population in 22 districts of Maharashtra. The campaign, running from September 6 to 20, has so far screened over a crore people and referred suspected 70,000 people for confirmatory test. Maharashtra has got sanctioned a budget of Rs 9 crore for 2017-18 to eliminate leprosy under the National Health Mission. In the current drive, a population of 5.46 crore in 234 talukas will be screened.
In 2016, a similar drive had screened 3.5 crore people and diagnosed 4,322 patients suffering from leprosy.
“We expect to diagnose a higher number this time because a larger population will be screened. Those found positive will be put on Rifampicin treatment. Referrals will be made to primary health posts and district hospitals,” said Dr Sanjeev Kamble, in-charge of National Leprosy Eradication Programme in the state.
He added that of 70,000 currently suspected, less than 2,000 are expected to test positive for the infectious disease.
“If patients are detected in early stages, the treatment is easy and disease can be reversed. Our aim is to diagnose as many as possible,” said Dr VV Pai, attached to the Bombay Leprosy Project.
In 2016, the state government had focused on 16 districts with incidence of leprosy higher than one per 10,000 population. This year, the focus is on districts where incidence is higher than 0.8 per 10,000 people. The disease is common in tribal areas where healthcare facilities and sanitation are poor.
During the current campaign, 35,058 teams of health officials have been trained and deputed to physically examine residents for skin patches, considered a classic symptoms of leprosy.