On an average, 49 people in Maharashtra were diagnosed with leprosy every day from April to December 2023. The state health department said 13,410 cases were recorded in these nine months, of which 6,679 cases were detected during the leprosy case detection campaign conducted from November 20 to December 6. This drive has also revealed 3.48 lakh suspected cases, which will only be confirmed in the coming days.
Migration stataed as reason for the staggering numbers
Health officials have attributed the staggering numbers to workers migrating from other states, the stigma associated with the disease and its endemicity in seven districts in Maharashtra, including Chandrapur, Gadchiroli and Nandurabar.
According to the data, maximum number of cases were detected in Chandrapur (487), followed by Palghar (442), Yavatmal (363), Gadchiroli (354), Amravati (325), Jalgaon (319) and Thane (302).
The special leprosy campaign
Dr Sunita Golhait, joint director (TB and leprosy), health services, Maharashtra, said that the special leprosy campaign supplements routine surveillance by focusing on detecting hidden and suspected cases. Paramedical staffers conduct door-to-door visits, identifying potential patients based on preliminary symptoms.
“This proactive approach aids in early detection and intervention. After identification, suspected patients undergo confirmation for infection through a combination of clinical diagnosis and laboratory testing,” she said.
Dr Vivek V Pai, director at Bombay Leprosy Project, said, “Stigma is a major hindrance in detection of leprosy. Some awareness within the society is crucial.”
Many other experts believe that the numbers are neither increasing nor are steady, but there is a possibility of people ignoring symptoms even as white patches appear on their body.
“Most people are already suffering from the disease, but due to low awareness and lack of screening, these people are left out. Late detection or delay in treatment damages the nervous system and patients go to the hospital only after the deformity. However there is a need for emphasis on screening in Mumbai, so these cases get detected early,” Dr Pai said.