(GS3: Science and technology)
- About: Leprosy/ Hansen’s Disease is one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases. It is an infectious disease caused by a bacillus, Mycobacterium leprae, which multiplies slowly.
- Incubation Period:On average, the disease incubation period is 5 years but symptoms may occur within 1 year. It can also take as long as 20 years or even more to occur.
- Affects: Leprosy mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract, and the eyes.
- Transmission:The bacillus is likely transmitted via droplets, from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contact with untreated cases.
- Treatment: Leprosy is curable with multidrug therapy (MDT). Untreated, it can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes.
- Prevalence: It is most prevalent in India (69% of cases), Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar and East Africa, Mozambique to Ethiopia, Brazil and Nepal.
- Vaccine: The BCG vaccine has some preventative effect against leprosy.
- National Program: National Leprosy Eradication Programme is a centrally sponsored scheme. Its vision is “Leprosy-free India”. Under this, action is taken for early case detection, complete treatment of detected cases and to contain the onset of disease in close contacts. It also includes leprosy awareness campaigns. Under the programme, Reconstructive Surgeries are conducted and welfare allowance is paid to each patient undergoing Reconstructive Surgeries.
- Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases in recorded history, afflicting humanity since time immemorial. A written account of Leprosy date as far back as 600 B.C.\
Leprosy is classified into two types based on the number of skin lesions, presence of nerve involvement and identification of bacilli on slit-skin smear.
- Paucibacillary (PB) – A case of leprosy with 1 – 5 skin lesions, without the demonstrated presence of bacilli in a skin smear.
- Multibacillary (MB) – A case of leprosy with more than 5 skin lesions or with nerve involvement or with the demonstrated presence of bacilli in a slit-skin smear, irrespective of the number of skin lesions.
Steps taken to cure it:
- The National Leprosy Eradication Programme that was launched that achieved the goal of elimination of leprosy as a public health problem, defined as less than 1 case per 10,000 Population, at the National Level in December 2005.
- In 2017, the SPARSH Leprosy Awareness Campaign was launched to promote awareness and address the issues of stigma and discrimination.
- The measures included in the campaign like contact tracing, examination, treatment, and chemoprophylaxis are expected to bring down the number of Leprosy cases.
- In 2019, Lok Sabha passed a Bill seeking to remove Leprosy as a ground for divorce.
- In commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on 2nd October 2019, the NLEP has prepared the comprehensive plan to reduce the grade to disability to less than one case per million people by October 2019.
- World Leprosy Day is observed every year on the last Sunday of January. In India, it is observed on 30th January every year, coinciding with the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who is known for his fight against the disease.
- India has 52% of the world’s new leprosy patients.
- Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Delhi, Dadra Nagar Haveli and Daman Diu and Gujarat, have at least one or more than one district, where they have to realize leprosy elimination target. These states combined together have 90% and more of the total caseload in India.