KARACHI: Pakistan being the first country in the region to achieve the target of leprosy control, also fast on its way to leprosy elimination has been warned against any complacency in its struggle to eradicate the bacterial disease from its environs.
Dr. Ruth Pfau, the key figure in the fight against Leprosy and protecting locals against it for past more than 60 years in a press conference here on Saturday said the country has successfully managed to maintain it Leprosy Control status for past 21 years.
Mentioning that leprosy elimination is also successfully being achieved in the country, she reminded that elimination was not the end of Leprosy.
“It must be remembered that incubation period of the disease is comparatively long and it usually takes about three years to five years for symptoms to appear after coming into contact with the leprosy-causing bacteria,” she said adding that some people do not develop symptoms until 20 years later.
Leprosy’s long incubation period makes it very difficult for doctors to determine when and where a person with leprosy got infected.
This demands that people across the country do away with stigma attached to disease and tendency to ostracize the sufferer is efficiently curtailed so that people suspected to be affected may approach the doctors without any fear or apprehension, she stressed.
Accompanied by Dr. Ali Murtaza and Mervyn Lobo, actively engaged in Leprosy eradication efforts, Dr. Ruth Pfau also urged the concerned authorities to discuss threadbare and consequently adopt the draft of country specific leprosy eradication strategy, developed by Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center.
The health experts and activists said there are also many challenges in terms of physical and social rehabilitation of the affected people, which will go on even in the post elimination phase.
Attributing achievement of gradual elimination of leprosy in the country to the concerted efforts by a team of committed workers, they said since inception of leprosy eradication program more than 56,780 leprosy patients were registered in 157 MALC Leprosy Centres.
Of these patients 99% were said to had completed their treatment and 88% were confirmed to be fully recovered.
Dr. Ali Murtaza, Member Executive Council, MALC and Incharge of its TB/Blindness Control Program said currently there are no more than 531 leprosy patients under-treatment.
This was said to be in a situation when about 400 to 500 new leprosy patients are registered every year in different parts of the country and are treated free of cost.
“It is, however, feared, that there may be around 2000 people across the affected by slowing growing bacteria “Mycobacterium Lebrae” that causes Leprosy,” he said.
The speakers also mentioned that World Leprosy Day 2017 is being observed on Sunday and that WHO under its four year Leprosy Eradication Strategy has sought Zero Transmission, Zero Disability in girls and boys and Zero Discrimination.—APP