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Times of India
8 February, 2010
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India

India continues to record the highest number of new leprosy cases in the world followed by Brazil and Indonesia.

While globally in 2008, 2.5 lakh new cases of leprosy were recorded, India accounted for 1.37 lakh of those cases followed by 38,914 cases in Brazil and 17,441 in Indonesia.

According to WHO’s latest estimate, around 35% of new leprosy cases in India – 48,000 – are women. India also recorded the highest number of children newly detected with leprosy – 13,610. India, which is home to over 700 leper colonies, was also ahead of all other countries in the number of relapse cases at 325.

Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae which mainly affects the skin, peripheral nerves, upper respiratory tract and the eyes. It is curable and treatment provided in the early stages averts disability.

Official figures show that approximately 2.49 lakh new cases were reported globally in 2008. The leprosy causing bacteria multiplies very slowly and the incubation period of the disease is about five years. Symptoms can take as long as 20 years to appear.

India’s National Health Policy 2002 had set the goal of elimination of leprosy (reduce the number of cases to less than 1/10,000 population) by the year 2005. India achieved this goal in December 2005, when the recorded prevalence rate (PR) in the country was 0.95/10,000 population.

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