In January this year, it was reported that Tamil Nadu saw a 5% increase in the number of leprosy cases. Earlier this week, it emerged that over 200 new cases were discovered. While these numbers seem alarming, officials in the state have claimed there is no need to panic.
“When the steps to detect and make people aware were first implemented, there was a system of passive reporting. Many states only focused on the district-level elimination of cases. What we have done is to expand that to the block level, so that we are able to detect more cases,” says Dr K Kolandaswamy, Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, to TNM. “What has happened with this is that we are getting ground-level reports of how many cases are actually prevalent in different areas.”
He further maintained that intensive drives were held to screen cases, with teams of doctors and experts going to a number of houses in different blocks within districts to determine how many cases are present, even if they have yet to be detected.
“In schools around the state, screening camps are being conducted for all students. Not just for leprosy, but, in general for skin diseases. Essentially, we are doing rapid screening, so now we are getting all the numbers,” he adds.
What this means is that while the reports show an increase in the number of cases, this is due to the extensive nature of the screening, which has allowed officials to determine with more precision how many cases there are at present on a ground level.
“The infrastructure is in place, we have the means of treatment, which is prescribed to those whom are afflicted with leprosy. We now have a target of eradicating leprosy on a block-level by the year 2020,” adds Kolandaswamy.