World Leprosy Day is being observed on January 30, 2021, and we at Ziqitza Healthcare Limited believe in awareness of the fact that leprosy is curable, that leprosy stigma should end once and for all, and that leprosy has a serious impact on a person’s mental health. Dr Santosh Datar from Ziqitza Healthcare Limited remarked, “Chances are, the mention of leprosy brings to mind skin falling from the bone and people cast away into quarantined colonies to prevent outbreaks. While this may have been the reality for those in the past, modern technology and treatments have made this disease a little less scary and with timely intervention can be cured.”
About the disease
Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases known to man. It is a chronic infectious disease caused by bacteria “Mycobacterium leprae”. It mainly affects the skin and peripheral nerves. Leprosy is associated with severe social stigma due to ignorance and misconceptions. Many patients tend to hide the disease due to fear of stigma and discrimination.
Dr Datar from Ziqitza remarked that leprosy should be suspected if the person has following symptoms and signs such as light or reddish patches on the skin, loss or decrease of sensation in the skin patches, numbness or tingling in hand or feet, weakness of hands, feet or eyelids, painful nerves, swelling or lumps in the face or earlobes and painless wounds or burns on hands or feet. It is transmitted through droplets spread by untreated leprosy patient. However, it requires prolonged close contact for the disease to be transmitted to another person. It is mainly diagnosed clinically and if necessary, by skin smear tests. Leprosy can be effectively treated with multi-drug regime provided the treatment is taken without interruption for the desired duration. If untreated, it can lead to severe disfiguration, disability, or blindness due to nerve damage.
Situation in India
India has the highest burden of the disease out of all cases reported in the world. It contributes to approximately 60 per cent cases reported worldwide due to its large population though the number of cases per 10,000 population is low. According to the WHO criteria, a country is considered leprosy free in prevalence rate is less than 1 case per 10,000 population.
Seeing the data in India, Dr Datar from Ziqitza Healthcare made an observation that a reduction from a prevalence rate of 57.8/10,000 in 1983 to less than 1/10,000 by the end of 2005 and further down to 0.66 per 10,000 population in 2016.
National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP)
Dr Datar from Ziqitza spoke about the National Leprosy Control programmes that were launched by the government in 1955. After multi-drug therapy came on wide use after 1982, National Leprosy Eradication Programme was introduced in 1983. Components of NLEP consist of case detection and management, disability prevention and rehabilitation, information, education and communication (IEC) including Behaviour Change Communication (BCC), Human Resource and Capacity building and Programme Management.
Various activities are conducted under NLEP such as diagnosis and treatment of leprosy (offered free at all government hospitals), training of doctors, paramedical and field workers, awareness campaigns, partnership with NGOs working in the field, prevention of disability in patients and rehabilitation of affected persons. Special activities are carried out in 209 districts which have reported a high number of new cases. ASHA workers were involved to motivate suspected leprosy cases for initiation and completion of treatment. A quarterly newsletter is also published for updated information to all stakeholders. Ziqitza Rajasthan also worked closely with Asha Workers to educate about leprosy.
Leprosy Case Detection Campaigns (LCDC) are being implemented in certain districts to detect hidden cases. A geographic information system (GIS) mapping has also been initiated in Central Leprosy Division to facilitate planning, implementation and monitoring.
Leprosy is curable. However, any government programme cannot succeed without active participation from people. Concerted efforts of all stakeholders such as public, leprosy patients and their family members, health professionals, health care institutions, government, lawmakers, media, and NGOs will help the government to achieve its ambitious goal of elimination of leprosy.
About Ziqitza Healthcare Limited
Ziqitza is a “one-stop integrated healthcare solution” for a corporate or government that include Ambulance at Site, Medical Helplines, Mobile Medical units Ambulance on Subscription, Wellness at Workplace, Telehealth Services, Medical Rooms, Doctors on Site and Occupational Health Centre, among others. The service network includes 3,300 ambulances, state-of-art helpline centres and medical mobile units that services 2 customers every second. We work with multiple state governments and 75 corporate clients in India and Gulf. Ziqitza is Ranked #34 in Global Real impact Awards and winner of Times Social Impact Award.