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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Leprosy Elimination: Still Unfinished Business

During a three-day WHO Western Pacific regional meeting of national leprosy program managers, it was revealed that the Philippines registered the highest number of new cases in the Western Pacific region in 2010 as some areas remain leprosy hotspots.

A report cited that according to Former Health Secretary Alberto Romualdez, leprosy hotspots in the Philippines include some areas in Cebu City, Metro Manila, Davao City, Ilocos Sur, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Tawi-tawi and Sulu.

Romualdez heads the Culion Foundation, a non-government organization working for the prevention and control of communicable diseases like leprosy. The foundation apparently got its name from Culion Island in Palawan, a former leper colony where patients with leprosy throughout the archipelago are brought for isolation (and incarceration) as there was no cure for leprosy at that time.

According to ILEP, leprosy existed in the country even before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers. And its incidence was said to be fairly high during the time of the American occupation thus the creation of the Culion leper colony which at its peak held over 5,000 people.

In 1986, the National Leprosy Control Program was established in the Philippines. Since then, the incidence has decreased. Although the disease is considered eliminated in the Philippines (elimination = less than one case per 10,000 of population), with a current Philippine prevalence rate of 0.31 per 10,000 people (2,041 new cases), there remain to be pockets of leprosy cases. The social stigma of leprosy is still believed to be present making it difficult to really see all leprosy patients as some patients would try to hide their condition because of shame. This age-old stigma as WHO mentioned "is an obstacle to self-reporting and early treatment."

Leprosy is a chronic disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, an acid-fast bacilli (like tubercle bacilli) affecting the skin, peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and also the eyes among others with an incubation period of about five years. It is transmitted via droplets, from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contacts with untreated cases.

IT IS CURABLE with Multidrug therapy of dapsone, rifampicin and clofazimine. However for treatment to reach all patients, treatment needs to be integrated into general health services. Community awareness must also be promoted to combat leprosy social stigma and encourage self-reporting so that patients will voluntarily seek treatment. Monitoring of treatment performance is also important.

Indeed we still have a lot to do to complete the business of truly eliminating leprosy in our country.

Like or Google plus this post to express your commitment to help battle leprosy in your area at least by spreading awareness.


  1. Hello sir, How are you today?

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  2. GOOD DAY!
    we are nursing students from Velez College Cebu Philippines. we are now conducting a study about the lived experience of people diagnosed with Leprosy mainstreamed to society. As a researcher with a purpose of not just to fulfill this requirement, we would also like to ask that if there is by any chance we could help in this mission of reducing or possibly eliminating leprosy in our country. If you have any information on how to be an advocate of such act, please do contact me through this email:

  3. The problem with leprosy is the stigma that comes with it. It is probably because of this that stopping leprosy is a challenge. It is difficult to convince patients to seek treatment and active case finding is a challenge. As WHO says, "Information campaigns about leprosy in high risk areas are crucial so that patients and their families, who were historically ostracized from their communities, are encouraged to come forward and receive treatment. The most effective way of preventing disabilities in leprosy, as well as preventing further transmission of the disease, lies in early diagnosis and treatment with MDT." Perhaps this is how you can help.



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