St Lucia Confirms New Cases Of Leprosy

CMC – St Lucia has registered new cases of leprosy so far this year, after recording 11cases last year, health officials have confirmed.

In a message to mark World Leprosy Day on Sunday, the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs, said that “leprosy is not an illness of the past, it still affects millions of persons around the world and scores of St Lucians today.

“In 2023 the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs registered 11 new cases and at the start of 2024 has already diagnosed new cases. This infection may be transmitted mainly through droplets from the nose , without indicating the number of cases diagnosed so far this year.

It warned that leprosy has a long incubation period, on average, at least five years and that “ means someone could be infected with leprosy but not show any signs lesions on the body or symptoms loss of feeling and decreased sweating in the lesions for up to five years”.

The ministry said the stigma associated with leprosy is real, noting for example, “we would not want to sit next to a person that we think has leprosy on a bus because we are afraid that we may catch it from them.

“Leprosy appears to affect men and other persons who live with or have prolonged contact with untreated persons with leprosy. This year we intend to introduce treatment for persons who have had close contact with someone with leprosy.”

The ministry said that this medication will help in reducing the chances of getting leprosy, adding that one single dose of Rifampicin can lower the possibility of you getting Leprosy if you have been in close contact with an infected person.

The ministry is urging St Lucians “to take a close look “ at themselves and family members, adding “if you see a light coloured spot with decreased sensation or feeling, or getting non- healing recurrent burns and ulcers to the hands and feet, please visit your nearest health care facility.

“Let us all join hands to end the stigma associated with leprosy and promote the dignity of people affected by the disease. Together we can make a difference,” it added.

World Leprosy Day is held annually on the last Sunday of January. The day aims to raise awareness about leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease.

World Leprosy Day is being held under the theme “Ending Stigma, Embracing Dignity”.

Leprosy is a chronic disease which affects the skin, nerves and eyes and is caused by a bacterium (Mycobacterium Leprae). Leprosy is curable using a combination of drugs which are available free of charge within the public health system.