SINCE January this year there have been 24 notified cases of leprosy in Solomon Islands as part of the routine surveillance of the disease in the country.
The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) confirmed that the new cases were not a result of the April floods and refutes the allegations of the occurrence of an outbreak.
“Leprosy is a chronic disease caused by bacteria which mainly affects the skin and nerves,” Dr Tenneth Dalipanda, Undersecretary of Health Improvement said.
“The bacteria multiply very slowly. The time from exposure to developing the disease varies from several months to 30 years.”
HE said today, the diagnosis and treatment of leprosy is easy.
“Multidrug therapy (MDT) cures the disease and stops transmission within the first week. MDT is readily available in the Solomon Islands.
“However, if left untreated, leprosy can lead to progressive and permanent nerve damage, resulting in the loss of sensation and sweating in the extremities, and paralysis of muscles in the hands, feet and face,” Dr Dalipanda said.
He said the MHMS and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been closely monitoring the cases of leprosy and the people they have been in close contact with.
They have identified 24 new cases in the Solomon Islands since January 2014. This compares to 30 for all of 2013 and 13 for 2012.
It is likely that the increase in case detection is due to the improved health education campaigns which targeted the entire Solomon Islands population and to the intensified case finding activities.
This made it possible to identify previously undetected cases. New case detection is beneficial to both the patients who will be treated at an early stage of the disease and to the community as the treatment of cases will cut the transmission chain.
“Most people who are exposed to leprosy do not develop the disease. Those at greatest risk are people who have lived in a household with a person with leprosy for more than a month,” said Audrey Aumua, Officer-in-Charge of the WHO Representative Office in Solomon Islands.
“Extended close contact is required for people to be exposed to leprosy”.
The ministry said leprosy is a treatable condition.