Cases of children with leprosy doubled over 2018

Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence shares a light moment with the Armadillo mascot at the launch. (DPI photo)

The numbers of children in Guyana who have been diagnosed with leprosy has more than doubled over the course of 2018, according to statistics.

According to a Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) press release, the public health officials here have described this situation as “a serious cause for concern.”

In her feature address at Friday’s launch of the annual World Leprosy Day, held at the Umana Yana, Kingston in Georgetown, Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence disclosed that of the 67 new cases of leprosy, children comprised six per cent of the figure.

Though the total figure of infected persons dipped last year, falling to 49 new cases, the percentage of children infected climbed to 14 and this is troubling, the Public Health Minister said.

“We have a serious cause for concern. A significant percentage of our children are at risk of this disease, and hence it is imperative that we boldly endorse this year’s theme through education and heightening of public awareness so that all those afflicted by the disease can be encouraged to seek medical assistance before disabilities and deformities become visible,” Minister Lawrence was quoted as saying.

The 67th annual World Leprosy Day was observed this year under the theme ‘Ending Discrimination, Stigma and Prejudice’.

Leprologist Dr Holly Alexander informed the audience that globally, 30 persons are diagnosed every hour with leprosy, which is also referred to as Hansen’s disease. The figure is less depressing in Guyana with almost 6 per month (for a total of 67) in 2017 and slightly more than four (for a total of 49) in 2018, contracted the contagious ailment.

The dedication of the MOPH, led by Dr Heather Morris-Wilson, Director of the government’s Leprosy Control Programme, in fighting the disease was lauded by Alexander in her remarks. According to the leprologist, the fight against the infectious ailment has been moved “to the front burner”.

Leprosy is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. It primarily affects the nerves of the extremities, the skin, the lining of the nose and the upper respiratory tract.

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