DILI, 26 january 2022 (TATOLI) – Last year, the Ministry of Health detected 150 people with leprosy in Timor-Leste, revealed the Head of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Program of the Ministry of Health, José Liu Fernandes.
Fernandes informed that of the 150 people, 136 are still under treatment.
“Last year, MoH detected these cases in nine municipalities and the Special Administrative Region of Oé-Cusse Ambeno,” Fernandes told TATOLI at his office, in Dili, on tuesday.
According to data from the Ministry of Health, the number of new leprosy cases recorded nationally in 2021 among the most impacted municipalities shows that, in that year, there were around 30 new cases of leprosy detected in Baucau, the highest number of any municipality nationally.
Dili is the second leading municipality in terms of the number of leprosy cases, as 28 new cases were detected in 2021.
In addition, Covalima ranked third with 19 cases detected in 2021, meanwhile, Ainaro and Manatuto ranked fourth with 18 and 17 cases respectively.
In addition, RAEOA and Bobonaro identified new cases of leprosy with 15 and 13 respectively.
The number of leprosy cases was low in Liquica with seven cases detected in 2021, followed by Lautem with two cases and only one case was identified in Viqueque municipality.
He stressed that MoH would carry out the Leprosy Awareness Campaign and Leprosy Mass Screening Campaign to detect those people who are living with leprosy in those municipalities with a higher number of leprosy cases, including Dili, Baucau, Covalima, Ainaro, and Manatuto.
“We will also carry out the contact tracing to see the condition of those people with leprosy who are currently under treatment,” he said.
Fernandes revealed that since 2000, MoH had recorded more than 5.000 cases of leprosy in the country.
In 2010, the number of leprosy cases dropped significantly, leading Timor-Leste to declare zero leprosy cases in 2011. However, the new cases were detected in the following year.
“The Ministry of Health would put effort into eliminating leprosy by 2030,” Fernandes said.
The government of Timor-Leste in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Leprosy Mission Timor Leste (LMTL) developed Timor-Leste’s national NTDs plans, particularly the National Leprosy Eradication Program to eliminate leprosy in Timor-Leste.
The Ministry of Health had been committed to improving the quality of the national leprosy eradication program and to empowering the Timorese community to participate in leprosy eradication activities.
According to the The Leprossy mission international, www.leprosymission.org,Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) is caused by a bacillus (germ) called Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae). It mainly affects the skin, nerves and eyes.
Leprosy is not a highly contagious disease. The incubation period (the period between infection and seeing symptoms) is long – five years on average, but can be anything between one year and 20 years. During the incubation period, an infected person does not have any visible signs or symptoms but may already be infectious.
Anyone can be diagnosed with leprosy, but thankfully most of us have immune systems that are strong enough to not develop it even if we live in a country where there is leprosy.
What are the signs and symptoms of leprosy?
- Skin patches which are a different colour from the rest of your skin (in brown/black skin the patches are lighter; in light-skinned people the patches are reddish in colour) and with no feeling (meaning that it is numb and has no sensation)
- Loss of feeling or numbness of the hands and feet.
- Muscle weakness or paralysis – struggling to hold things in your hands, unable to lift your foot up so that your toes are pointing upwards; unable to close your eyes.
Is leprosy contagious?
Leprosy is a mildly infectious disease. It is spread by a bacteria called M.leprae and most people are not at risk of developing leprosy if they are exposed to this bacteria.
How is leprosy treated?
Leprosy is curable with Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT) – a combination of three antibiotics that has been used to treat leprosy for decades. MDT is highly effective in killing M. leprae and people are no longer infectious a few days after starting treatment. MDT is the only effective treatment for leprosy and you should not consider herbal remedies or any other forms of treatment.
Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT) is given to people diagnosed with leprosy completely free of cost.
Journalist: Filomeno Martins
Editor: Rafy Belo