Spread the Word About Leprosy to Help End the Spread of This Disease!
Today, I would like to talk to you about one such disease that has been in India literally for centuries. I am talking, of course, about Leprosy.
India is considered the country of origin of leprosy with skeletal evidence dating back to 2000 BC. Yet, even today, not many know much about this disease and where we are in the fight against it. As an educated individual capable of reaching this website, it is important that you break through the myths and falsehoods surrounding leprosy.
What is leprosy?
An infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae; leprosy is a slow-developing disease with an average incubation period of around 5 years. Its symptoms may appear as early as 1 year after the infection but in some instances, the disease may reveal itself 20 years later.
Leprosy affects the skin, peripheral nerves of our body, upper respiratory tract, and eyes and is transmitted via droplets (nose and mouth) following close and constant contact. If left untreated, leprosy can cause permanent damage to the skin, nerves, eyes, arms, and legs.
It is therefore important to say it out loud when discussing this disease - leprosy is curable with medicines. [/b]
Like tuberculosis, we have a multidrug regimen available, for decades, to cure this disease. It needs to be taken for a certain period to effectively cure the infected person / individual.
Where does India stand in the battle against leprosy?
With 1,30,000 new cases every year, India accounts for 60 percent of new leprosy cases in the world.
While this is an improvement from where we used to be at the beginning of the century, it still is not as good as we would like it to be.
There are various factors contributing to our present situation with regards to new leprosy cases in India.
Stigma against the disease remains even today resulting in those suffering from the disease being discriminated against and ostracized from society. Disconcertingly, there are over 100 discriminatory laws against persons affected by leprosy in our country. Not to mention denial of basic human rights that has been a constant drawback in the fight against leprosy.
Stigma affects the individual at every level – economically, socially, and even interpersonal relationships.
So, what are we doing wrong? How can you – as an individual – help turn the tide?
While organizations like Sasakawa Health Foundation & Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation (S-ILF) continue to fight against leprosy using a multi-pronged approach which includes conducting awareness programs and providing employment to leprosy affected and leprosy cured people, it is essential to do our bit too.
And in today’s world, that comes down to raising awareness about the disease.
Remember what we said earlier – Leprosy is a curable disease.
If detected early, we can stop the physical manifestations of this disease and heal the individual before he or she suffers any permanent damage. They can be rehabilitated and reintegrated back into society.
We have seen the impact fact-checking and social media websites have in spreading information across the world. That is what India needs today in its battle against leprosy – support to spread the word about leprosy to eradicate / end the spread of this disease that has survived far too long in our country.
This bit – raising awareness about leprosy and helping in early detection – is something you and I can do. It’s a small click of a button for us but think about it – it can actually help eradicate a disease if we do it right.