124 cases of leprosy in detected in Kamrup (M) in 2016
Leprosy still strikes fear in the society and is considered a mutilating, disfiguring, contagious and incurable disease. Kamrup (M) recorded 124 cases of leprosy in 2016 which is a rather big figure and stands much higher than the previous year’s 59 cases.
Because of the horrifying nature of the enigmatic physical disfigurement and since no cure was discovered until the 20th century, leprosy has, for centuries, been a highly stigmatized disease. Though leprosy is not a disease confined to the poor, it affects the poor to a much greater extent because of their social and economic vulnerability. The stigma attached to leprosy leads to loss of employment even before manual labour becomes more difficult due to the onset of disability which often results from late or no treatment. It also leads to exclusion from society, causing physical and emotional distress.
No disease is more stigmatized than leprosy and it has become a metaphor for stigma. When the family or community knows that a person has leprosy he/she suffers economic and social losses, as well as participation restrictions in the community. “There are two types of leprosy viz. Pauci Bacillary (PB) and Multi Bacillary (MB). Patients with MB require 9 months of treatment while patients of PB require treatment for six months,” said Dr. Dhruba Rajbongshi, Senior Medical and Health Officer, Office of the Joint Directorate of Health Science (Leprosy), while speaking to G Plus.
Dr. Rajbongshi said that the cases are more in slums and tea garden areas. A special programme called Leprosy Case Detection Campaign was conducted in Kamrup (M) in September 2016 and 175 new cases were detected during the campaign pushing the figure up from the previous year. “In Kamrup (M) the number of cases is greater as many people migrate from different parts of the state and as the diseases is communicable the cases are found to be more in the district,” Dr. Rajbongshi said.
Dr. Rajbongshi further informed that the MB patients suffer from Grade II disability and it is due to lack of awareness and fear of losing work that people do not go for treatment at the early stage. The treatment is free of cost in government hospitals but people do not go for treatment. The disease is treated with Multi Drug Therapy (MDT).
Determinants of stigma may be lack of knowledge, negative attitudes, perceived fear of infection and blame and shame. Community attitudes are part of a cultural belief and value system. Attitudes are often defined in terms of beliefs (evaluation), effects (feelings) and behavioural tendency. Attitudes are learned responses and are manifestations of past experiences. Fear is a major driving force of stigma. People fear mainly two things: deformity and social exclusion, or more generally, the negative social consequences of leprosy. “The latter would include diminished marriage prospects for children or other relatives and reduced earning capacity. Fear can be deeply ingrained and may be associated with the risk of transmission of the disease or with the notion of perceived impurity of the person affected. Fear to touch a person affected by leprosy is often seen even in doctors and other health workers who are not used to working with leprosy,” said Dr. Rajbongshi.
The dimensions of stigma constituting a framework assessment includes consideration like reluctance to disclose the problem, exclusion or rejection from school, work, social groups or activities, blame and devaluation, diminished self esteem, social impact on family, ability to marry and impact on existing marriage and compare stigma for different health problems in different settings.
The symptoms of leprosy are:
Spots on the skin that may be slightly red, darker or lighter than normal skin.
The spots may also become numb and may lead to loss of hair on the affected part of the skin.
Numbness in hand, finger or toe resulting in muscle paralysis
Loss of blinking reflex of the eye; this may lead to dryness, ulceration and even blindness
Deformity and crippling may be caused at the last stage of the disease
World Leprosy Day was observed on 30th January to commemorate the death of Mahatma Gandhi who laid a lot emphasis on eradication of leprosy
In 2016, 124 cases of leprosy was detected
The disease is treated with Multi Drug Therapy (MDT)
There are two types of leprosy: Pauci Bacillary (PB) and Multi Bacillary (MB)
Persons who have white patch of 1-6 suffer from PB and above 6 suffer from MB
The disease is more prevalent in slums and tea garden areas
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