LEPROSY – TRAPPING COMMUNITIES IN ENDLESS CYCLES OF POVERTY.
Leprosy, also known as “Hansen’s Disease”,is an infection caused by Mycobacterium leprae. It affects the nerves, skin and eyes of people of all ages and has a long incubation period of about 10 to 20 years. The disease comes with subtle to no signs and symptoms, (skin lesions and patches) making it possible for one to have the infection unwittingly until extensive nerve damage , loss of digit mobility and loss of eye sight begins.
221 new cases of leprosy were recorded across Ghana by end of September 2022. According to the Ghana Health Service (GHS), for the past five years, the country detects at least 200 new cases of leprosy annually, indicating an ongoing transmission of the causative agent of the disease among the population.
Dr Benedict Okoe Quao, the Programme Manager of the National Leprosy Control Programme, revealed that all 16 regions of Ghana are endemic with the Upper East and Upper West regions, recording the highest number of cases each year.
Dr Quao admonish the public to treat people with leprosy with respect and dignity and desist from stigmatising and discriminating against them. “Treated cases of leprosy are not contagious so you don’t get it from touching or sharing objects”. He said. Transmission is mainly through contact with persons who have leprosy but have not been treated. Droplets, from either through cough, sneeze, talking, etc, are the transmitting agents. “The people with deformities and clawed fingers we point at as lepers are cured of the disease but the gentleman in suit sitting by you in the office, in the bus etc, who may have a patch under his shirt, coughing and singing loudly is where you can get the infection from”. He continued.
“You then go into incubation and the disease manifests several years later,” he added.
The Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia on Sunday, January 29, 2023, joined residents and management of the Weija Leprosarium in Accra to mark the 70th Anniversary of World Leprosy Day, with a strong appeal for an end to stigmatisation against victims of leprosy. The World Leprosy Day is observed internationally on the last Sunday of every January to celebrate people who have acquired the disease and also to spread awareness about it.
Leprosy is among the 20 diseases the World Health Organization (WHO) has under its Neglected Tropical Diseases portfolio.
Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), are a diverse group of communicable diseases (caused by bacteria, helminths, protozoa or viruses) that occur under tropical and sub-tropical climate conditions and are intimately linked to poverty. They thrive in areas where access to adequate sanitation, clean water and healthcare is limited, and people live in proximity with animals and infective disease vectors, such as in remote and rural areas, informal settlements or conflict zones. NTDs affect some of the world’s poorest and most marginalized communities, predominantly in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
NTDs cause local burdens of disease, but individually none of them represents a global priority in terms of numbers of people affected or disability adjusted life years (DALYs) lost.
Moreover, global attention tends to focus on killer diseases such as HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis, although NTDs disable and disfigure more than they kill.
For example, DALYs due to NTDs are constituted for 56% by years lost due to disability (YLD) and for 44% by years of life lost (YLL), as compared to 7% of YLD and 93% of YLL for malaria. As a result, NTDs have remained largely neglected in the global health agenda.
Counted together, however, NTDs were estimated to affect close to 2 billion people at the turn of the millennium, with a collective DALY burden that was equivalent to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, or malaria. Research into the more subtle and indirect consequences of NTDs has further revealed that beyond condemning affected people to live long years with disability and stigma, they keep children out of school, adults out of work, burden households with considerable costs to seek health care, trap communities in endless cycles of poverty and cost developing economies billions of dollars every year.
Leprosy is a very disfiguring and stigmatizing disease. That minor patch or lesion on your elbow, knee, neck or torso could be leprosy. Get Medical Attention Now to End Leprosy.
Written by: Aishah Fadila Adamu