Last year, only 19,303 unreported cases of leprosy could be detected with five states —Delhi, Bihar, Mizoram, Nagaland, Andaman & Nicobar — failing to complete their door-to-door surveys. This was a drop from nearly 35,000 “hidden” cases of the disease detected in 2016, when the government launched its leprosy case detection campaign (LCDC) in a major push to eradicate the disease.
“Hidden” cases are those that go initially unreported, mainly due to the fear and stigma associated with the disease. In 2016, over 2 lakh volunteers screened 32 crore people in 20 states including Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Odisha, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Gujarat and Jharkhand. The drive targeted every district that had reported at least one case per 10,000 people over the past three years, and sought to detect all cases by visiting members of every household. This was followed up with treatment of every member of the family diagnosed with leprosy.
In 2017, the LCDC had planned to reach out to 51 crore people across 309 districts. “We were able to conduct the surveys in 197 districts and cover a population of 29 crore. Out of 5.61 lakh suspected cases of leprosy, 4.7 lakh were examined and 19,303 persons were identified with the disease,” Dr Anil Kumar, deputy director general (leprosy) in the Ministry of Health, told The Indian Express.
“For various administrative reasons, Delhi, Bihar, Andaman and Nicobar, Mizoram and Nagaland have not completed the survey. However the process is under way and a deadline of March 31 has been given to these states,” said Dr Kumar, who has written to the authorities to expedite the work.
The LCDC is an initiative under the National Leprosy Eradication Programme. As per NLEP, a total 1.27 lakh new cases were detected in 2015-16.
India is home to 57% of the world’s leprosy affected. The share of grade-II disability among new cases has increased from 3.10% (2010-2011) to 4.51% (2014-2015), which indicates that cases are being detected late in the community and there may be several cases that are lying undetected or hidden.
“The house-to-house visits by teams of one ASHA and one male volunteers will help in increasing our capacity to detect most of the leprosy cases at the community level,” Dr Kumar said.
A focused leprosy campaign has been planned on January 30 and appeals will be sent across village panchayats and urban communities on early detection.