Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Sep 18:
With prevalence rate of leprosy still high and as many as 22 districts vulnerable to it, Odisha has fared badly in eliminating the chronic infectious disease.
As per a latest report of the state Health department, the prevalence rate of leprosy in the Western Odisha districts of Bolangir, Bargarh, Jharsuguda, Sonepur and Nuapada are significantly higher than other districts in this region.
New infected patients are detected every year in the state. However, it is too late by the time they are provided medical care. As a result, it becomes well-nigh impossible to save them from disability.
Around eight years ago, the Union government had withdrawn financial assistance under leprosy programme. Soon after, the state government had launched its own programme to identify leprosy patients and provide healthcare to the affected people.
On September 1, the month-long leprosy awareness month was launched.
Notably, the leprosy disease has spread its tentacles mostly in underdeveloped and tribal-dominated districts in the state in the last five years.
As per data available, the highest number of leprosy patients was found in Balangir district in 2013-14 with 982 followed by Bargarh with 921 patients identified. Similarly, 955 patients were identified in Mayurbhanj, 680 in Dhenkanal, 543 in Sundargarh and 472 in Sonepur.
While 6, 742 leprosy patients were identified in 2010-11, the number swelled to 8, 312 in 2011-12. But, there was a marginal decrease in the number of patients in 2012-13 with 8, 226 new cases. The number rose alarmingly to over 10, 000 in 2013-14 after the state government expedited the process to identify new patients in the state, it said.
The upward trend continues this year and the number is expected to touch the 10, 000 mark. For every 1 lakh population, the number of leprosy patients in the state stand at 24, the report added.
“The social stigma associated with the leprosy patients is preventing them from visiting hospitals,” a member of Leprosy Awareness Rights said.
While leprosy awareness programme was launched in 102 blocks of the state in 2013-14; the programme is continuing in 76 blocks this year. ASHA and health workers are making door-to-door visits to identify new patients.
Importantly, 4-5% new patients were found to be disabled during the survey. Under the Disability Prevention and Medical Rehabilitation (DPMR) programme, patients are being operated and treated at eight government hospitals. Around 2058 patients have undergone reconstructive surgery since 2007. Of these patients, the highest of 663 patients were operated at LHH, Cuttack followed by 349 patients at Sonepur district headquarters hospital, the report revealed.
According to the National Leprosy Elimination Programme (NLEP), it aims to bring down prevalence rate to less than one per 10,000 population.