Hansen’s disease (commonly known as leprosy) is an infection caused by Mycobacterium leprae, a slow-growing pathogen. It can harm the nerves, skin, eyes, and nose lining (nasal mucosa). The condition can be cured with early detection and treatment.
The Nigeria Medical Association has asked the Nigerian government to prioritise the eradication of leprosy, one of humanity’s oldest diseases, from the country.
The NMA made the request in a news release signed by its chairman, Dr Sebastine Oiwoh of the National Committee on Neglected Tropical Diseases.
The association appealed for continued financing from the federal and state governments in the quest to eradicate the disease completely from the country.
According to the statement, the NMA president, Dr Uche Ojinmah, emphasised the need for the Nigerian nation to Act Now and End Leprosy utilising the theme of the 2023 WLD while speaking on the occasion of World Leprosy Day.
He emphasised the need for devotion and political determination in eradicating the disease.
The NMA, however, commended the efforts made at controlling and eliminating leprosy while calling for more concerted efforts to meet the target of zero leprosies in 120 countries by 2030, in tandem with the Sustainable Development Goal target.
It also reiterated that timely prevention or early diagnosis from the time a patient has that painless skin discolouration will help prevent the disability that later occurs.
“Leprosy is an ancient, stigmatising, infectious neglected disease of man,” according to the news release. It is one of humanity’s oldest diseases, and despite prior triumphs, there has lately been a global decline in diagnosis as a result of the concurrent COVID-19 pandemic.
“This caused a 30 per cent decline below the 200,000 people annually diagnosed with leprosy before COVID-19, according to the World Health Organisation. For at least 4000 years, this crippling disease has tormented mankind through respiratory droplet infection as well as continuous contact.
“Depending on the burden of infection, it affects the lining of the upper respiratory tract, the skin, the peripheral nerves, and the eyes among others. It should be underlined that it is not transferred by casual contact such as shaking hands or hugging, sharing meals, or sitting close to someone who has leprosy.
“It is treatable and prevented if proper health education, fast diagnosis followed by timely treatment initiation, and adequate and persistent surveillance are provided.”
The committee urged more practical collaboration among key stakeholders, emphasizing that “eliminating leprosy is doable, but the time to start is NOW because we have the power and instruments to stop transmission and destroy this disease.”