Health experts in Nepal fear leprosy resurgence in the country with a prevalence rate touching 0.94 percent in 2018.
Leprosy-free status was given to the Himalayan nation after it declared elimination of the disease in 2009. However, that status could be lost if the prevalence rate reaches one percent of the total population, Kathmandu Post reported on Thursday.
‘Health authorities fear the resurgence of leprosy in Nepal as the prevalence rate of the disease which was declared eliminated in 2009, reaching 0.94 percent in 2018. Leprosy-free status could be lost if the prevalence rate reaches 1 percent of the total population.’
Experts already fear that this marks the resurgence of the disease in Nepal. The percentage could be more, an official said, as the current given figures have been derived just from preliminary data.
The Leprosy Control and Disability (LCD) section of Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) of Department of Health Services said that the prevalence rate was 0.92 and 0.89 in 2017 and 2016, respectively, the news report said.
"It will be a great setback for the country if it loses the status," said Rabindra Baskota, a doctor and chief of the LCD section.
The incubation period of leprosy varies from one to 20 years, and diagnosis of more patients could help stop the further spread of the disease, according to him.
"It will take only a couple of years to reach one percent if this upward trend continues," he added.
The prevalence rate is over one percent in various districts of the Tarai region, Baskota said, adding that the country had received leprosy eliminated status, after reducing its prevalence rate by 0.77 percent, in 2009.
Sishir Silwal, a focal person for the leprosy control programme in Gulmi district, said regular review meetings for leprosy, which should be held every four months, has not been held for the last eight months.
Kathmandu Post quoted Bibek Kumar Lal, Director at EDCD, as saying that there is a severe crunch in manpower that hinders proper functioning.
There is only three staff working in the leprosy section, and the same team looks after the disability programme, as well, he told the newspaper.
Leprosy, a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, is transmitted through nasal secretion or from droplets from the mouth. It affects the skin, peripheral nerves, and eyes, leading to disfigurement and nerve damage. The disease is curable with multi-drug therapy.