Finally, the biblical scourge has come to its end.
For generations, lepers were social outcasts banished from the mainstream community for their dreaded condition.[pq]The stigma attached to being stricken with leprosy is – short of a death sentence – remote confinement.[/pq]
But now although there is no vaccine against leprosy, it is now curable, manageable, and is but a a harmless shadow of its former fearsome self .
And the best news of all is: Treatment is free.
Thus stressed a group of medical experts from the Philippine Dermatological Society during a health forum conducted by the Philippines College of Physicians in Quezon City.
Dr. Ma. Angela M. Lavadia, PDS chairperson and dermatologist of the East Avenue Medical Center, noted that while it is true that there are still new cases of individuals detected with leprosy in the country, it is not that alarming.
Lavadia noted that the number of recorded cases of patients with leprosy has gone down due to some strategies done in the past years to reduce the burden of disease which made it treatable.
“With one dose of Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT) taken alone, the patient will never be infectious,” she explained.
MDT is freely given at any local health center. It is recommended by World Health Organization and supported by the Department of Health under its National Leprosy Program.
Depending on the type of leprosy acquired by the patient, the administration of MDT may be conducted within six months or one to two years.
“However, it is important that follow-up consultation will still be made by the patient/s for several years to ensure that it will not recur or go back again as the presence of bacteria in the patient’s body may also get active if not properly monitored,” said Dr. Ma. Luisa A. Venida, consultant of Department of Dermatology of the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center.
Venida noted that most patients in the past who were afflicted with leprosy only detected at the later stage of their life as the incubation period takes five to 15 years to develop due to prolonged exposure to a patient with leprosy, usually also within their family circle.
Venida also added that some had suffered disabilities and deformities of physical look or parts of the body due to harsh realities of leprosy to those who were afflicted with it in the past.
Thus, it is best for an individual who has skin problems but suffers no sensation, especially if he/she had close contact to a person with leprosy or has lived with them for so many years to “bravely” seek free medical treatment to spare them from other complexities like deformities or disability that may happen if they had developed the disease.
In 2011, the World Health Organization reported there were about 1,818 new cases of leprosy in the country.
Current records show at least 1 over 10,000 of the population who may be afflicted with the disease may be receiving treatment or probably is not yet treated.
“Early detection through proper diagnosis is the most effective way of preventing disabilities in leprosy, as well as preventing further transmission of the disease to achieve total eradication in the future,” Venida stressed.[pq]Leprosy is a chronic, infectious illness caused by Mycobacterium leprae through close personal contact or prolonged exposure to a person infected with it.[/pq]
It can manifest in the physical body like light colored reddish patches, skin lesion or whitish spot.
It can also manifest itself like a buni or fungal infection or look like ringworm, swollen or irritated lesions which are sometimes seen all-over the body and has no sensation when touched.
Currently, 11 dermatological institutions provide diagnosis and give referral of MDT to patient stricken with leprosy.
These are in EAMC, JRMMC, Philippine Medical Center,Makati Med. Center, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Skin and Cancer Foundation, University of East Ramon Magsaysay Med. Center, St. Lukes Med. Center , UP-PGH, UST Hospital, and Ospital ng Maynila.
These institutions support the advocacy campaign for the skin safety campaign of the PDS.[pq]The country celebrates Leprosy Month every February of every year. World Leprosy Day is celebrated January 26.[/pq]
Jose Rodriguez Memorial Hospital formerly Tala Leprosarium, houses those with Leprosy disease who were abandoned and ostracized in the past due to the stigma of their disease and for fear that they can spread it to other people.