Maharashtra Records 7% Surge In Leprosy Cases Among Children In 2023; Sparks Concerns For Health Department

Maharashtra Records 7% Surge In Leprosy Cases Among Children In 2023; Sparks Concerns For Health Department

The risk of being stigmatised, bullied and shunned for lifetime increases and affects their mental health.

Swapnil MishraUpdated: Tuesday, January 23, 2024, 10:02 PM IST
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Rising number of leprosy cases among children below 18 years in Maharashtra is a major concern for the state's health department. Out of 17,048 new leprosy cases identified between April and December last year, 1,160 cases, constituting seven percent, involved children. Officials attribute this rise to the good detection and coverage done by paramedical staff, along with the health department's measures to eradicate leprosy.

An official from the state health department said, the detection of cases among children is a sensitive indicator as they can get infected by leprosy patients via close contact for which there is a need for urgent intervention and measures to control these cases. Moreover, the risk of being stigmatised, bullied and shunned for lifetime increases and affects their mental health.

While leprosy is non-fatal and does not easily spread, early diagnosis and treatment can effectively cure it. The incubation period for leprosy-causing bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae, ranges from six months to two years.

Dr Sunita Golhait, Joint Director (TB), health services, Maharashtra said “Due to their weak immunity, children in homes with infected adults are most vulnerable to Mycobacterium leprae [leprosy-causing bacteria].”

Despite the decrease in leprosy cases among children from 12 percent in 2010-11 to the current 5-6 percent of overall cases, the World Health Organization notes that leprosy remains endemic in several Indian states.

Bombay Leprosy Project, Dr Vivek V Pai, said, “Leprosy among children indicates there is community transmission. An immediate surveillance of the area where cases have been found in children is required to identify index cases and hotspots. Index cases have to be traced and treated effectively to break the chain of transmission.”

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