World Leprosy Day: Zero Disabilities in Girls and Boys

World Leprosy Day: Zero Disabilities in Girls and Boys

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Highlights:
  • Leprosy remains a neglected disease, although over 200,000 new cases are diagnosed each year
  • The disease can be cured with multidrug therapy, if it is detected and treated early
  • The theme for World Leprosy Day 2018 is "Zero Disabilities in Girls and Boys"
World Leprosy Day is observed on the last Sunday in the month of January. This year, it falls on 28th January. The day aims to raise awareness on leprosy to help prevent disabilities in children. Organizations and charities across the globe aim to raise awareness of this disease that many people believe to be extinct. In 1953, French humanitarian Raoul Follereau chose the last Sunday in January as World Leprosy Day. He dedicated many years to fundraising and helping those affected by leprosy. The theme for World Leprosy Day 2018 is "Zero Disabilities in Girls and Boys."
World Leprosy Day: Zero Disabilities in Girls and Boys

Leprosy was declared eliminated in India, a decade ago, however new cases have been found to be highly infectious. About 210,000 new cases of leprosy are diagnosed each year, and millions of people are living with the disease undiagnosed.

Zero Disabilities in Girls and Boys

World Leprosy Day 2018 focuses on the target of zero cases of leprosy-related disabilities in children. Disabilities occur due to a prolonged period of the undiagnosed disease. Some children who have been recently diagnosed with leprosy already showed signs of disability.

Statistics show that there are delays in diagnosis and inaccessibility to high-quality treatment. Early detection and interventions to prevent disease transmission are the keys to achieve zero cases of leprosy-related disabilities in children.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global target of zero child infection by 2020 can be achieved with national programs that boost active case-finding, strengthen surveillance, and improve contact-tracing and early detection of the disease.

If leprosy is left untreated, it can cause severe immunological reactions that lead to disability and chronic pain. The disease can be cured with multidrug therapy, if it is detected and treated early.

Facts and Statistics about Leprosy

  • Leprosy is also known as Hansen's disease
  • In 2016, 214,783 new cases of leprosy were reported, including 12,437 people who had suffered serious disabilities
  • Nearly 19,000 children were diagnosed with Hansen's disease in 2016
  • Globally, 2 to 3 million people are living with leprosy-related disabilities
  • In 2015, leprosy affected 212 000 more people globally
  • Brazil and Indonesia have higher cases of leprosy
  • About 60% of new leprosy cases in the world are in India
  • A total of 5,004 new leprosy cases were detected in Maharashtra in 2017

About Leprosy

Leprosy is a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium leprae, which multiplies very slowly in the human body. The disease affects the nerves and destroys the ability to feel pain and injury. Leprosy can damage the skin, peripheral nerves, the upper respiratory tract and the eyes. Scientists have discovered that leprosy might have originated in the Far East. Several strains of bacteria from East Asia belonged to the ancestral lineages of the leprosy bacilli.

Leprosy can be cured with multidrug therapy, however the disease prevails in many developing countries. According to the WHO, the overall number of leprosy cases is declining, however, new cases do not align with global efforts and resources deployed to interrupt transmission.

The WHO has identified 12 countries where action is critically necessary, these include India, Brazil, Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria and the Philippines.

People with leprosy continue to suffer discrimination. Adults still face social barriers and children are deprived of education due to the stigma associated with the disease. Besides eradication of leprosy, WHO's global strategy focuses on working with governments to end discrimination and stigma associated with the disease. Discrimination has prevented people from coming forward for diagnosis and treatment for leprosy, indirectly contributing to disease transmission. Ending discrimination and stigma associated with leprosy, will help people with the disease to seek treatment and prevent transmission.

References:
  1. World Leprosy Day - (http://www.searo.who.int/entity/global_leprosy_programme/world_leprosy_day/en/)
  2. World Leprosy Day: Bust the Myths, Learn the Facts - (https://www.cdc.gov/features/world-leprosy-day/index.htm)
Source: Medindia
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