•Leprosy is likely transmitted via droplets, from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contact with untreated cases.
•According to the report, out of 109 patients who were initiated on leprosy treatment in 2021, 82 (75 per cent) were released from treatment successfully.
Cases of leprosy, an age-old and once feared highly contagious and devastating disease, are on the rise in the country.
The latest report by the Division of National Tuberculosis Leprosy and Lung Disease Programme at the Ministry of Health shows 116 leprosy cases were detected in 2022 from 14 counties.
This was a six per cent increase as compared to the cases notified in 2021. Data from the ministry shows 104 cases were detected in 2021.
The cases were 88 in 2020, 162 in 2019 and 109 in 2018. Despite the six per cent increase, there was a drop in the number of counties that notified leprosy cases from 21 counties in 2021 to 14 in 2022.
According to the report, out of 109 patients who were initiated on leprosy treatment in 2021, 82 (75 per cent) were released from treatment successfully.
Ten (9 per cent) were lost to follow up, three (three per cent) died while 11 (10 per cent) were not evaluated for treatment completions.
“The proportion of patients with multi-bacillary (MB) type of leprosy in the year was 84 per cent which was a drop as compared to 2021 that was 87 per cent while those with disability grade 2 were 23 (20 per cent) an increase from 16 per cent in 2021,” the report says.
The acting head of the division Immaculate Kathure said the programme conducted the epidemiological review and the end term evaluation of the National Strategic Programme 2019-2023.
“This information was instrumental in the development of the 2023-24 – 2027-28 Strategic Plan. The programme prioritises data quality hence conducted data quality improvement forums, DQAs and performance review meetings during the year,” Kathure said.
Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by a bacillus, mycobacterium leprae, which multiplies slowly.
The disease has an incubation period of five years but symptoms may occur within one year though it can also take as long as 20 years or even more.
The disease, which is curable with multidrug therapy, mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract, and the eyes.
Leprosy is likely transmitted via droplets, from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contact with untreated cases.
Untreated, leprosy can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes.
“There is a need to continue doing sensitisation to health care workers and awareness creation at the community level,” the report says.
It adds: “This could mean that there might have been improvement in seeking care and that the health care workers were able to make a diagnosis of leprosy early.”
The World Health Organisation warns that the disease predominantly affects the skin and peripheral nerves and if left untreated may cause progressive and permanent disabilities.
Apart from the physical deformity, persons affected by leprosy also face stigmatisation and discrimination.
According to WHO, leprosy is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) which still occurs in more than 120 countries, with more than 200,000 new cases reported every year.
The global health agency says elimination of leprosy as a public health problem globally (defined as a prevalence of less than 1 per 10,000 population) was achieved in 2000 and in most countries by 2010.
The reduction in the number of new cases has been gradual, both globally and in the WHO regions.