Nepal Finally Rids Itself Of Leprosy
Nepal's government announced on Wednesday that the country has finally rid itself of leprosy. This makes it one of the last nations to do so.
The health ministry said Nepal had cut the number of leprosy patients to fewer than one in 10,000 of the population, the World Health Organisation (WHO) standard for declaring the disease eliminated.
"The disease prevalence rate dropped to 0.89 per 10,000 people in November last year," said ministry official Sudha Sharma.
"This is a remarkable achievement for Nepal's health sector. The disease will no longer be categorised as a public health problem."
Sharma said the government hoped to eradicate leprosy completely within five years and had launched a major awareness programme in rural Nepal, where social stigma still surrounds the disease.
"That has paid off, but there are still lots of challenges," she said.
"Leprosy patients face discrimination so they don't come forward for treatment for fear that they will be rejected by society. But that problem is slowly disappearing."
Leprosy is a slow progressing bacterial infection that affects the skin, peripheral nerves in the hands and feet, and mucous membranes of the nose, throat and eyes.
It is characterised by disfiguring skin sores, nerve damage and gradual debilitation.
It has been eradicated in most countries, but remains prevalent in some areas of Africa, Brazil and India, according to WHO research.