The Chinese government on Thursday urged local authorities to
step up efforts to care for leprosy patients and fight social
Despite sustained efforts -- and considerable success -- in
bringing it under control leprosy is still a serious disease in
some parts of China and people who have been cured continue to
As World Leprosy Day approaches on January 28 the Ministry of
Health and three other departments have asked local authorities to
offer more care to sufferers by carrying out home visits and
providing new facilities.
Leprosy, one of the oldest recorded diseases in the world --
first mentioned in writing in 600 BC -- causes deformities and
nerve damage. It incubates in the body for up to 20 years and is
transmitted via droplets from the nose and mouth during contact
with untreated, infected sufferers. However, it can be cured by a
sustained year-long antibiotic treatment.
China had reported and treated 500,000 leprosy cases by the end
of 2005. Sixty percent of these were in the nation's southwestern
areas. While the disease is under general control the situation in
some areas is worsening, says the health ministry.
The government has asked local authorities to begin an education
campaign on prevention and control of the disease and called for
the eradication of discrimination against leprosy patients.
"Society should mobilize to support and care for leprosy
patients. Their living, treatment and convalescence problems must
be actively managed," the department said in a statement on
Thursday. Officials should pay visits to leprosy hospitals and
families and send them Spring Festival greetings, it says.
Last July the health ministry published a leprosy control plan
vowing to eradicate the disease in Anhui and Qinghai by 2008 and in Chongqing, Guangdong and Shaanxi by 2010.
The government has been providing free treatment for leprosy
sufferers. But there are still 6,300 patients in the country and
the number is currently increasing by 1,600 a year.
Most leprosy cases are diagnosed in Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, Hunan and Tibet. Children account for 2.1 percent of new
(Xinhua News Agency January 5, 2007)