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Times of India
15 February, 2010
Sumitra Deb Roy
Mumbai, India

At a time when medical experts are aiming at eradicating leprosy, annual figures of fresh cases in the state has left the health authorities worried. Experts, however, believe that the figures are incorrect as the problem was much bigger than it has been projected.

Figures compiled by the state government suggest that in 2009, 1,280 cases of leprosy were detected from across all the districts in the state, including Mumbai. The new cases have gone up from 9,516 in 2007 to 10,312 in 2008 and further to 11,592 last year. Dermatologists in Mumbai, however, believe that the city itself must be witnessing something between 1,000 and 1,500 fresh cases every year.

The state government figures are also worrying as it shows a rise in the percentage of deformities in the new cases. From only 0.69% of patients suffering deformity in 2007, the figure has gone up to 1.52% in 2009.

However, assistant health officer Dr R M Kumbhar of state health services, who has been working in leprosy project, did not seem to agree that the cases of deformities were on a rise. “We do not see many cases where patients come with deformities. They see a doctor immediately after patches have developed and so do not reach such extreme stage,” he said.

The dreaded disease has returned from the verge of elimination after a central government policy integrated leprosy with general health services in 2005.

“Volunteers working exclusively on leprosy were withdrawn and thereafter, patients themselves are expected to report their symptoms to public health centres. It can seldom give a correct picture of the proportion,” said Dr R Ganapati, leprologist and director Emeritus, Bombay Leprosy Project.

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