Western Visayas vies as ‘leprosy-free’

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Monday, January 28, 2013


WESTERN Visayas is vying as a leprosy-free area under the Aquino administration’s universal health care program, which orders diagnosis and treatment of all suspected leprosy cases in the country.

The Aquino health agenda of “No Filipino will die without getting medical health attention” is pushing the Department of Health (DOH) of filling in the gap and neglect on topical diseases such as leprosy.

Reading the message of DOH Assistant Secretary Dr. Paulyn Jean Rosell Ubial, DOH Regional Director Susana Madarieta said the medium term development goal of the country focuses mainly on the reduction of infectious diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which could lead to Acute Immunodeficiency Syndrome (Aids).

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The DOH City Health Development-Western Visayas (CHD-6) conducted a multi-sectoral orientation on leprosy and participated by representatives of the academe, religious, business, non-government organizations (NGOs) and local leaders in Iloilo City on Monday, January 28.

The DOH will take the lead on leprosy control and in Western Visayas with a leprosy-free zone sustainability program. The region is celebrating World Leprosy Day in January 28 to focus on the poor and marginalized people and to address and identify cases in certain areas in Western Visayas.

Ubial said the World Health Organization (WHO) is providing 100 percent drugs for free since the year 2000 to patients against leprosy and helping patients to reintegrate into the mainstream society.

The multi-drug therapy (MDT) that comes in tablet form already cured more than five million worldwide, but also rendered two to three-million people permanently disabled. Most cases are in China and Egypt.

Leprosy is a skin and veins disease caused by the “mycobacterium leprae” or leprosy bacilli and easily spread through the air from a person with the disease. If remained untreated, it rendered a person with unsightly skin infections that eroded the bones of the feet and hands including the nose bones.

The quest for a leprosy-free world since the biblical times has considered leprosy a public health problem and the stigma remains for those afflicted in the Philippines to hide in some mountains and islands. The patients also refuse to seek medical care.

However, in 1980, a breakthrough in leprosy control was discovered and in 1986, the Philippines implemented the national leprosy control program after considering the 38,570 registered cases in the country.

The leprosy stigma still remains especially in the rural areas, but the disease is already controlled. Ubial said that leprosy is currently considered as not anymore infectious with the MDT treatment. A zero new case in 2012 was reported in the Philippines.

The disease is easily treated now and can be treated at home like tuberculosis. The MDT drugs are provided for free at all health centers.

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