Saturday January 18 2014

Leprosy still a big threat in Uganda, official says

By Moses Ndhaye


More than 400 people are diagnosed with leprosy in Uganda every year despite the availability of drugs and treatment centres.

The acting manager for National TB and Leprosy Programme at the Ministry of Health, Dr Frank Mugabe, said 10 per cent of the leprosy patients are children. He said northern, north-western and central regions are three high-burden leprosy areas in the country. The most affected districts include Kampala, Oyam, Gulu, Pader, Yumbe, Arua, Koboko Lira, Mayuge, Luuka, Iganga, Wakiso and Mubende.

Others are Kiboga, Luweero, Nakaseke, Kasese, Bundibugyo, Isingiro, Nebbi, Kaliro, Nakasongola and Kyankwanzi.

Dr Mugabe said in 2011, Oyam District registered 22 patients and new cases are being registered because the community is still ignorant about the disease. He said most of them think it is witchcraft.

Dr Mugabe said the Ministry of Health will carry out free skin examinations and treatment in Oyam on January 20 and 21 as the country commemorates the World Leprosy Day in the district on January 22.

If parents have leprosy they are likely to infect their children. It’s recommended that whenever there is a leprosy patient in a family, it is advisable to seek early treatment.

About leprosy

The disease. It is a chronic infection caused by the bacterium mycobacterium leprae and mycobacterium lepromatosis.

Affected areas. It is primarily a granulomatous disease of the peripheral nerves and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract; skin lesions are the primary external sign.

Effects. Left untreated, leprosy can be progressive, causing permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. Contrary to folklore, leprosy does not cause body parts to fall off, although they can become numb or diseased as a result of secondary infections; these occur as a result of the body’s defences being compromised by the primary disease. Secondary infections, in turn, can result in tissue loss causing fingers and toes to become shortened and deformed, as cartilage is absorbed into the body.

Spread: According to the acting manager for National TB and Leprosy Programme at the Ministry of Health, Dr Frank Mugabe, transmission of leprosy is not very clear but it is caused by bacteria and is an air-borne disease. It’s curable and treatment is available.

Treatment: Treatment for multibacillary leprosy consists of rifampicin, dapsone, and clofazimine taken over 12 months. Single dose multidrug therapy (MDT) for single lesion leprosy consists of rifampicin, ofloxacin, and minocycline.