Berhampur: In spite of the availability of cheap, effective treatment for leprosy and umpteen awareness campaigns, cases have been steadily increasing in Ganjam district, a government report says.
Health officials and activists celebrated when India announced in 2005 that leprosy had been eliminated as a public health concern by bringing the prevalence rate below 1 in 10,000 nationally, but the situation in Ganjam district is totally different.
As per government records, 3,932 people developed leprosy in the last six years in the district. The alarming rise in the prevalence of the disease indicates that it is nowhere near elimination.
This has put health officials on alert, and they are all set to launch camps for the intensive screening of leprosy cases from February 15.
“The increasing incidence among women and children has become a matter of concern. Steps will be taken for proper screening and treatment will be provided to all patients,” a health official said.
With several discriminatory laws existing against persons affected with leprosy, urgent action is required to stop the disease. Even though the government had launched Sparsh Leprosy Awareness Campaign, there is no respite for people affected with the disease.
Leprosy affects not only the patient, but the entire family. The only way to help affected persons is to increase the participation of communities to reduce discrimination against leprosy patients and improve early reporting of the disease.
In 2009-10, only 279 new cases of leprosy were reported. Of this, around 43 (15.4 per cent) were children. Since then there has been a rapid increase in the number of cases.
In 2017-18, 731 new cases were diagnosed of which 54 were children. In 2018, around 572 developed leprosy from April to December. Of this 48 were children, reports said.
Of the new cases, nearly half were diagnosed at an advanced stage. The number of new cases is high. “Union minister Arun Jaitley had told Parliament in his budget speech February 1, 2017, that India will eliminate leprosy by 2018, but the number of new cases is shocking,” a local said.
Additional District Public Health Officer (Leprosy) Truptimayee Mahapatra said, “Earlier, there were irregularities in the screening of patients. So many affected people were not detected. But over the last few years, the screening has been going on strictly. So cases have increased.”
“Steps are being taken to provide proper treatment and free medicines to all affected persons,” he added. “Camps will be set up for the intensive screening of leprosy patients from February 15 to February 28. We have set a target to screen at least 38.58 lakh people. Around 3,500 officials will participate in the programme. It will be led by an ASHA worker and a voluntary health worker,” he said.
“Our team will visit every house and do the testing. Everyone who tests positive will be hospitalised and provided treatment,” Mahapatra said.