Leprosy makes a comeback in India9th August 2011
Leprosy seems to be gaining new ground in India, according to reports by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Six years ago in India, the disease was declared a thing of the past, since there were fewer than 10 leprosy cases per 100,000 people.
But now things are not so rosy, with nearly a third of the country now requiring urgent help to fight the disease.
The head of the WHO in India, Nata Menabde, said that there were about 209 out of 640 Indian districts where the number of new cases exceeded the WHO's leprosy targets.
She said that India was the biggest contributor to the global leprosy burden, with 120,000 new cases per year.
Leprosy is one of the world's oldest recorded diseases, and it causes lesions on the skin, attacking the hands and feet.
Menabde said that 10% of the new cases were in children, implying that the disease's transmission rate was very high.
Vivek Pai, director of a nonprofit known as the Bombay Leprosy Project, said that the Indian government changed track too soon, as soon as leprosy rates fell below the WHO's target minimum number of 10 cases in every 100,000 people.
Now, the disease has made a comeback in Maharashtra, India's richest state.
Pai said that the central leprosy division had found that the number of leprosy cases in Mahasatra was now 13 per 100,000, but that agencies which used to support his organisation had stopped doing so because they had ceased to consider it important.
Having leprosy carries a strong stigmatism, and people who begin to show symptoms may attempt to disguise them rather than seeking treatment.
Yohei Sasakawa, the WHO goodwill ambassador for leprosy elimination, said he believed people should raise awareness that leprosy was both a medical and a social challenge.
He said he believed that the numerical target India had previously achieved was a great success for India, but that it was also just a mid-term goal.
According to WHO estimates, 65% of all leprosy cases worldwide currently come from India.
Between April of last year and March of this year, India recorded over 120,000 new cases of the disease, roughly 10% of which were in children.
The disease is still very strong in the districts of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Dadar, and Nagar Haveli.
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Thursday 11th August 2011 @ 6:03
Pls correct it was 1 per 10000 leprosy cases that was aimed for India by the WHO. Having "eliminated", the services have been withdrawn for leprosy cases in India and now the fear prevails of an outbreak as Dr Pai says with reference to Maharashtra state with 13/10000. Hope the JIN does not come out of the bottle and lead us back to a life worse than the past. With stigma still prevailing in the minds and hearts of the people, things would worsen for the leprosy patients and may be beyond the reach of service providers. Such incidences reported from Maharashtra could be an alarming sign for the WHO and Union Health ministry in India. Manoj V
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