Leprosy Must Not Be Forgotten amid the Covid-19 Pandemic
A 14th century painting depicts two leprosy patients denied entrance to town. Credit: Wikimedia CommonsBy Yohei SasakawaMay 31 2021 (IPS-Partners) The 74th World Health Assembly (WHA) takes place from May 24 to June 1. This year’s gathering is likely to be dominated by Covid-19, but here I want to talk about a different disease—leprosy—and a resolution that was adopted at the WHA exactly 30 years ago. This resolution called for the elimination of leprosy as a public health problem at the global level by the year 2000, with elimination defined as a prevalence rate of less than 1 case per 10,000 population. It was a landmark resolution for the time. Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a chronic infectious disease caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium leprae. It mainly affects the skin and peripheral nerves and is said to be one of the oldest diseases in human history. Today an effective treatment exists in the form of multidrug therapy (MDT) and with early detection and treatment, the disease is completely curable. But if treatment is delayed, leprosy can cause impairments to the skin, nerves, face, hands and feet, and lead to permanent disability. Together with deep-seated fears and misperceptions about the disease, this has subjected persons affected by leprosy as well as their family members to severe discrimination, which regrettably continues to this day. And, amid the coronavirus pandemic, we can see parallels between the discrimination and...
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