Pakistan urged not to be complacent in its efforts to eradicate leprosy

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KARACHI, Jan. 30 (APP): Pakistan is the first country in the region to achieve the target of leprosy control and also fast on its way to the elimination of the bacterial disease.
Dr Ruth Pfau, the key figure in the fight against leprosy and protecting locals against it for past more than 60 years, talking to media said the country had successfully managed to maintain its 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 the disease.
“It must be remembered that incubation period of the disease is comparatively long and it usually takes about three 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, she said, made 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 the 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
authorities concerned to discuss threadbare and consequently adopt
the draft of country specific leprosy eradication strategy, developed
by Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center.
The health experts said there were also many challenges in terms
of physical and social rehabilitation of the affected people, which
would 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 programme more than 56,780 leprosy patients were registered in 157 MALC Leprosy Centres.
Of these patients 99% were said to have completed their treatment
and 88% were confirmed to be fully recovered, they added.
Dr. Ali Murtaza, Member Executive Council, MALC and Incharge of
its TB/Blindness Control Programme, 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 were registered every year in different parts of the
country and are treated free of cost, he added.
“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.

MALC Chief Executive Officer, Mervyn Lobo sharing the available
data with the media, said leprosy prevalence rates in the country were
below the WHO recommended threshold.
It was between 0.27 per 10,000 population in Karachi and 0.04 in
Azad Kashmir, he said and mentioned that the two places had
considerably high incidence rate of the disease in previous years.
“Number of total patients are now so low that for Northern Areas,
KPK and Balochistan, percentage can no longer be calculated,” he said.
Punjab, though a low prevalence area, was said to be showing
increasing numbers of Leprosy cases that could be attributed to better
surveillance.
Karachi, a focal point was also treating the patients from
Balochistan and interior of Sindh province and even Afghan refugees,
the CEO said.
He appealed to the doctors, especially the skin specialists to
cooperate with MALC and provide necessary guidance to the patients
visiting their facilities.
Dr Ali Murtaza said that MALC was also working for the elimination of
TB and Blindness from Pakistan besides community developments for the last 57 years.