Eradication of leprosy likely by 2008: Official

Kathmandu, November 26:

With leprosy prevalence rate at 1.91 per cent per 10,000 this year — a 20 per cent drop from last year — the government is optimistic that Nepal will be free from the disease by 2008.

Dr Mangal Chandra Jain, chief of the Leprosy Elimination Programme (LEP), Department of Health Services, said the burden has reduced by 92 per cent as compared to the time when it was introduced in 1966.

“It is most unlikely that the government will achieve the target of eliminating leprosy

from the country by 2006, but the disease will be eradicated by 2008 at the latest or by the end of 2007,” said Dr Jain.

Leprosy is no longer considered a public health problem when prevalence rate drops below 1 per 10,000. According to World Health Organisation, the case holding in Nepal is exceptionally good with the cure rates of over 91 per cent for Multi Bacillary (MB) and 94 per cent for Pauci Bacillary (PB) cases.

“With the introduction of Multi Drug Treatment (MDT), the disability of the cases has gone down drastically,” said Dr Jain.

The government has already dispatched budget to the district health offices to review the cases so that timely measures could be taken, said Dr Jain.

Only 4213 new leprosy cases were detected and were put on MDT in the fiscal year 2005/06, that ended this mid-July. Nearly one third of these new cases (33 per cent) were female and 6.7 per cent were children.

According to the LEP, 135,000 people have been cured of leprosy after the MDT was introduced in 1982.

Nepal is one of the five countries in the world that has not yet eliminated leprosy as a public health problem by 2006.

Endemicity of leprosy is mainly localised to the Terai region accounting for 80 per cent cases under treatment and 82 per cent new cases detected.

Geographically, 80 per cent of the leprosy cases are located in 20 per cent of the land area (Terai) of the country. Total of 44 districts have already been eliminated of leprosy.