Did detection of leprosy fall during the pandemic? | In Focus podcast

Dr. Joydeepa Darlong speaks to us on what happened to leprosy during the pandemic and why India continues to account for a significant proportion of the world’s leprosy cases.

Updated - February 19, 2022 07:56 pm IST

Published - February 19, 2022 05:59 pm IST

It’s an ancient disease that has been mentioned in history across the world, but one that is now largely forgotten. Leprosy however, continues to exist in India. As per data, in 2020-21, the country saw 65, 147 new cases of leprosy, down from 1,14,451 cases in 2019-20 -- but whether this data is a reflection of ground reality is not known, as the Covid-19 pandemic hampered detection of cases, patients were unable to access healthcare services due to the lockdowns and almost all public health efforts were directed towards combating the pandemic.

The disease, caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, primarily affects the skin and the nerves under the skin. It causes lesions, and if left untreated, leads to deformities and disabilities. Despite free treatment available across the country in the government health sector, leprosy continues to be stigmatised and patients discriminated against, often in their own homes and communities.

In 2005, India officially eliminated leprosy as a public health problem -- as less than 1 in 10,000 people contracted it in a year. But some States in the country continue to have higher rates -- parts of Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and a few others make up a sizeable chunk of all cases in the country.

So what happened to leprosy services in India after 2005? And what happened during the pandemic? Why does India still account for a significant proportion of the world’s leprosy cases?

Guest: Dr. Joydeepa Darlong Head, Knowledge Management, The Leprosy Mission Trust India

Host: Zubeda Hamid

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