Thursday 26th April 2012
Claims that the Indian state of Bihar is on the verge of being declared "leprosy free" have been criticised by a charity fighting to tackle the disease.
Lepra Health In Action has said that comments made by health secretary Amarjit Sinha regarding declining numbers of the disease in the state are "far from the truth".
The Colchester-based UK charity, which works to treat, educate and support people in the world's most deprived communities, said that Mr Sinha's comments in the Indian Express could hamper efforts to curb the spread of the disease.
In the report the health secretary said: "In November last year there were 1.17 patients per 10,000 population, showing decreasing trends over last few years."
However the charity has said that more than 20,000 cases have been registered in Bihar every year for the past five years.
According to Lepra Health, official figures also show that in the 11 months leading up to February more than 16,000 patients were identified in the state.
Lepra India chief executive, Dr PV Ranganadha Rao, said: "The state of Bihar being leprosy free is far from the truth. Particularly when 15% of new patients are children younger than 14.
"Nobody is born with leprosy and if 2,500 new leprosy patients are children there must be a significant source of infection within the community.
"With a long incubation period from five to seven years, it is logical to consider that new cases will continue to appear for some years to come."
The charity cites official figures of leprosy disability at around 4% of new cases. Patients that, they say, will continue to need support and possibly reconstructive surgery after treatment.