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World Leprosy Eradication Day: How It Is Being Eradicated?

By Satabdi MazumdarSeptember 12, 2022
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Celebration of World Leprosy Eradication Day And History of Leprosy

Introduction

Every year, we celebrate World Leprosy Eradication Day on 30th January to commemorate our victory against this pandemic disease. It is a chronic infection that affected millions of people across the world. India was one of the most suffering countries struggling to get rid of this disease.


We have been very successful in reducing the occurrence of leprosy to a considerable extent. The global mission launched by World Health Organisation (WHO) educates people regarding this disease. Let us learn what leprosy is first.


What is Leprosy?

Mycobacterium leprae, a bacillus bacterium species, is responsible for causing this infectious disease. It is not a hereditary disease and is caused by the bacterium. It was once thought to be contagious and highly devastating. People used to discriminate against the infected. If not treated, this infection can spread throughout the nervous system and cause paralysis and crippling of hands, feet, and even blindness.


The bacterium invades and causes lesions on the skin. These lesions need proper treatment or the bacterium can be deadly. Its spreading can be stopped by starting proper treatment of the infected person. As it is not contagious, controlling and containing it is easier.


History of Leprosy and World Leprosy Eradication Day

It is also called Hansen disease. It is named after a Norwegian scientist named Gerhard-Henrik Armauer Hansen. He found the causative organism behind leprosy in 1873 and defied the hereditary link people used to believe.


The historical anecdotes suggest its presence dating back to 300 BC. It has claimed many lives due to improper treatment. The worst of this disease had been witnessed in the 13th Century. It started retracing to some extent during the 16th Century. Its complete eradication has not been possible yet but the aggressiveness has been contained.


As we started researching this disease, many new facts were revealed. Previously, people thought that this disease is highly contagious. Villages emptied during its outbreak and people left patients untreated. The countries suffering and threatened by this disease collaborated to eradicate this disease together. They understood that working hand in hand will only be able to erase this disease and achieve success.


The history of World Leprosy Eradication Day dates back to 1954. Raoul Follereau, a French philanthropist declared the last Sunday of January that year as World Leprosy Day. His prime aim was to bring awareness about this disease and educate people. It was 30th January 1954, and the first World Leprosy Day was observed. Since then, 30th January is celebrated as World Leprosy Day.


Since then, World Leprosy Day is observed internationally on the 30th of January every year. It matches the death day of Mahatma Gandhi in India. The ancient disease can be cured easily. All we need was the attention of people with proper education.


Treatment of Leprosy

This disease was neglected in terms of developing treatment procedures. People were scared of its contagiousness and did not want to treat patients. The medical fraternity started researching the cause and how to stop the growth of this infectious disease in a patient.


Due to the terrible effect of leprosy, it was obvious that the whole world was scared of this ancient disease. Hospitals did not have the proper infrastructure to segregate the patients from the others. In fact, patients were not treated with proper dignity either.


Later in 1940, a medicine named Dapsone was invented to stop leprosy from spreading. It was an antibiotic. To our surprise, the bacteria started to develop resistance to this antibiotic. Two other medicines named clofazimine and rifampicin were invented and used for treatment.


The WHO then moved from single-drug therapy to a multi-drug treatment (MDT) plan. It was a huge success. The current MDT regimen contains rifampicin, dapsone, and clofazimine. This multidrug therapy was successful to contain and eradicate the bacteria and cure a patient perfectly. The treatment regimen ranges from 6 to 12 months based on the severity of the disease.


Leprosy


Leprosy and Its Effects


World Leprosy Eradication Day 2022 Theme

The theme of World Leprosy Eradication Day for 2022 was ‘United for Dignity’. The prime aim was to educate people about this disease and to make the patients live a life of dignity, not shame. The world reunited again under the umbrella of this day’s theme. The leprosy awareness posters appeared in different public and private medical facilities. Medical professionals explained the disease to people and told them how to tackle it easily.


Progress of Leprosy Education and Treatment

The number of cases reduces to a considerable extent. The total annual cases were reduced by 37% from 2018 to 2022. We have achieved this humongous figure within two years in 2020. To understand the level of success, 1.8 lakh cases were recorded in 2018. It reduced to 1.2 lakh cases in 2020.


India recorded 65,000 cases in 2020. The other countries recording the highest number of cases are Indonesia, Brazil, etc. With India’s National Leprosy Eradication Program, WHO is planning to eradicate this disease within this decade.


Considering the historical figures of leprosy infection, it is a huge success we have achieved in just a few decades. After launching MDT, we have been capable of containing the disease. The constant education of people regarding this disease has also paid off.


Significance of World Leprosy Eradication Day

Now, we can clearly understand how important this day is for eradicating leprosy. The countries collaborate and celebrate 30th January to spread awareness. Free MDT kits are distributed by the governments recording the highest cases. It took years to restore the dignity of leprosy patients. This achievement has been possible for everyone’s effort. This is why this day is very important in the medical world.

Last updated date: 27th Sep 2023
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