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An intensified leprosy screening programme in schools has pushed up prevalence of the disease from three cases per lakh people in 2012-13 to four per lakh in 2016-17. But by bringing out several hidden cases of leprosy, the state had been able to initiate treatment and prevent deformities due to bacterial disease, state health minister C Vijaya Baskar said.
At a programme organised by the state health department on the leprosy elimination day, the minister distributed multi-drug therapy to patients with leprosy.
He said the state health department is providing Rs 1,500 as monthly pension for some patients and Rs 8,000 towards rehabilitation surgery of the needy patients. “We now aim at early diagnosis and treatment. We screen high risk groups, including migrant workers, regularly. The Chennai team has just finished screening metro rail workers,” he said. Similarly, screening camps in ICDS centres and schools had been intensified, he added.
With a 5% increase in prevalence per 1,00,000 in five years, Tamil Nadu recorded 4,939 new cases in 2016-17 compared to 3,550 cases in 2012-13, according to the annual National Leprosy Elimination Programme report. Almost simultaneously, the state recorded an increase in the percentage of cases among children and women, along with the number of those crippled by the disease.
Women constitute 42.8% of all leprosy patients while 17.64% are children.
Directorate of Public Health officials say the increase is due to intensive screening. “We had been seeing a drastic decline until a few years. But now we have increased screening and numbers have gone up,” said director of public health Dr K Kolandaswamy.
While some activists say the increase in incidence began after leprosy prevention programme was integrated with general healthcare schemes too early, officials say they are only happy that more cases are being diagnosed. “Finding people with the infection during the last push for elimination are very difficult. We are doing that,” he said.
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