January 27, 2017
Early diagnosis needed to prevent ‘scandal’ of leprosy in girls and boys, as disabilities from the disease rise
The International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP) is calling for special action to prevent boys and girls from developing lifelong disabilities associated with leprosy, a disease that is fully curable if caught early.
The call for more active detection and early diagnosis comes on World Leprosy Day (Sun 29 Jan), as experts warn that there is a concerning rise of disabilities because people are not being diagnosed early enough.
Recent World Health Organization data show that the number of people being diagnosed with advanced stage leprosy and existing impairments has increased from previous years.
Almost one in every ten (8.9%) people newly diagnosed with leprosy is a child.
Jan van Berkel, President of ILEP, says: “It is a scandal that every year, thousands of girls and boys are diagnosed with leprosy, sometimes so late that they have developed irreversible impairments. It is imperative that in those countries or regions where leprosy is endemic, that enhanced detection and early diagnosis of leprosy is made a priority.”
Paul Saunderson MD, Medical Director, American Leprosy Missions and Chair, ILEP Technical Commission says: “The number of children newly diagnosed with leprosy with visible and substantial impairments highlights the urgent need for special action to detect all people affected by leprosy, especially children.
“If people affected by leprosy are left untreated, not only is their risk of developing impairments increased, there is a greater risk of ongoing infection in the community which in turn is a major threat to leprosy control.”
The rising rates of people newly diagnosed with leprosy showing advanced stages of impairments or disabilities suggests that existing healthcare systems are struggling to recognize and treat leprosy early enough to prevent people from becoming disabled.
ILEP is calling for more active detection and early diagnosis, as part of its work to achieve zero disabilities in girls and boys. Special action is needed to target highly endemic countries and highly endemic pockets within countries.
The federation has launched a Triple Zero campaign to stop transmission, prevent disabilities and end discrimination —www.triplezerocampaign.org.
Contact details for Jan van Berkel
Jan van Berkel, President, ILEP
+31 6 12880964
Contact details for American Leprosy Missions / Paul Saunderson
Sarah Hesshaus, Communications Director, American Leprosy Missions
+1 864 241 1731