World Leprosy Day 2017

Early diagnosis needed to prevent ‘scandal’ of leprosy in girls and boys, as disabilities from the disease rise

American Leprosy Missions and the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP), are calling for more active detection and early diagnosis of leprosy to prevent boys and girls from developing lifelong disabilities associated with leprosy, a disease that is fully curable if caught early.

The call comes on World Leprosy Day, January 29, 2017, as experts warn that there is a concerning rise of disabilities because people are not being diagnosed early enough.

Recent World Health Organization data show that the number of people being diagnosed with advanced stage leprosy and substantial impairments has increased from previous years.

Almost one in every ten (8.9%) people newly diagnosed with leprosy is a child. That’s around 52 children each day.

Jan van Berkel, president of ILEP, says, “It is a scandal that every year, thousands of girls and boys are diagnosed with leprosy and some are diagnosed so late, that they have developed irreversible impairments. It is imperative that in those countries or regions where leprosy is endemic, that enhanced detection and early diagnosis of leprosy is made a priority.”

Bill Simmons, president and CEO of American Leprosy Missions, adds, “The number of children newly diagnosed with leprosy with visible and substantial disabilities highlights the urgent need for special action to find and treat all people affected by leprosy, especially children. If people affected by leprosy are left untreated, their risk of developing impairments increases and there is a greater risk of ongoing infection in a community. This is a major threat to leprosy control.”

The rising rates of people newly diagnosed with leprosy showing advanced stages of impairments or disabilities suggests that existing healthcare systems are struggling to recognize and treat leprosy early enough to prevent people from becoming disabled.

American Leprosy Missions and ILEP are calling for more active detection and early diagnosis of leprosy. Special action is needed to target highly endemic countries and highly endemic pockets within countries.

Contact details for American Leprosy Missions
Name: Sarah Hesshaus, Communications Director
Tel: 864-241-1731
Email: [email protected]

Contact details for ILEP
Name: Jan van Berkel, President
Tel: +31 6 12880964
Email: [email protected]

About American Leprosy Missions
American Leprosy Missions, based in Greenville, South Carolina, is the oldest and largest Christian organization in the United States dedicated to curing and caring for people affected by leprosy and related diseases. It supports projects and partners in countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas. Since its founding in 1906, American Leprosy Missions has provided holistic care to more than four million people around the world including medical treatment and training, community development and vaccine research. http://www.leprosy.org/

About ILEP the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations
ILEP is a membership organisation of 15 international NGOs whose outreach spans 67 countries and 700 projects worldwide. ILEP is supported by two advisory boards; a Panel of Women and Men Affected by Leprosy (the Panel) and the ILEP Technical Commission (ITC). In the fight against leprosy, ILEP and its members work alongside the World Health Organization, the Novartis Foundation, the Nippon Foundation, other NGOs, Governments, Ministries of Health and over 500,000 supporters worldwide. www.ilepfederation.org

About World Health Organization Weekly Epidemiological Record
The World Health Organization’s Weekly Epidemiological Record provides rapid and accurate dissemination of epidemiological information on cases and outbreaks of diseases under the International Health Regulations and on other communicable diseases of public health importance, including emerging or re-emerging infections. An electronic bilingual English/French version of the WER is accessible every Friday and can be downloaded free of charge. http://www.who.int/wer/en/

More information about World Leprosy Day.