The state government initiated a leprosy awareness programme to observe World Leprosy Day on Wednesday in a bid to reduce incidence of the infectious disease to less than one per thousand population.
State Health Minister Eknath Shinde said the districts have been instructed to hold quiz competitions, street plays, health camps, and marches to raise awareness on leprosy.
World Leprosy Day is observed every year on the last Sunday of January.
The disease, caused by mycobacterium leprae, affects the skin and can lead to physical deformity and disfigurement. Its incidence rose in the past 14 years after India declared itself Leprosy Free, indicating that leprosy patients were less than one in 10,000 population. Since 2005, following the declaration, active screening programmes by the government came to an end.
Data from the state public health department shows that till March 2018, 1,624 children were diagnosed with leprosy. In 2018, 7.5 crore people were screened and 12,415 new cases were diagnosed through door-to-door campaigns.
The incidence is highest in Palghar, Raigad, Nashik and Thane districts. More than 500 leprosy patients were detected in Gadchiroli, Chandrapur, Nandurbar, Palghar, Dhule, Raigad, Jalgaon, Nagpur, Nashik and Amravati districts in 2018. “Treatment has been completed for 9,690 newly diagnosed patients,” an official from the public health department said.
In 22,000 village panchayats, special sessions on leprosy were held last week to raise awareness on leprosy and facilitate early detection. The Union government has set a target to reduce the disease to less than one in 10,000 population to declare India Leprosy Free again.