Leprosy is a chronic, infectious disease that mainly affects the skin, peripheral nerves and mucous membrane of the upper respiratory tract. It remains a disease of public health importance.
Signs & Symptoms
Leprosy should be suspected in people with any of the following symptoms or signs:
- light (hypo-pigmented) or reddish patches on the skin (the most common sign of leprosy);
- loss or decrease of feeling in the skin patches;
- numbness or tingling of the hands or feet;
- weakness of the hands, feet or eyelids;
- painful or tender nerves;
- swelling of or lumps in the face or earlobes;
- Painless wounds or burns on the hands or feet.
The type of leprosy in an individual can be determined on the basis of counting the number of skin lesions and nerves affected.
All leprosy patients are to be treated with Multi Drug Therapy (MDT) as recommended by WHO. MDT cures the patient within a short period of time and interrupts the transmission of the disease rapidly.
The two types of leprosy are treated as explained below:
PB patients: should receive one blister pack of PB MDT every 28 days (the first dose should be swallowed supervised by the health worker) for a period of 6 months (TOTAL 6 BLISTERS).
- These 6 blisters should be completed within a maximum period of 9 months.
- After completing 6 blisters the patient should be released from treatment (RFT)
MB patients: should receive one blister of MB MDT every 28 days (the first dose should be swallowed supervised by the health worker) for a period of 12 months (TOTAL 12 BLISTERS), intake of drugs on every day of the collection must be supervised.
- These 12 blisters should be completed within a maximum period of 18 months.
- After completing 12 blisters the patient should be released from treatment (RFT)
The health worker should ask all newly diagnosed patients to bring along their household contacts for examination at the clinic. If possible, a home visit to the patient’s compound can be arranged and they are to examine all contacts as soon as possible after diagnosis of the patient.
All contacts are advised to look regularly for suspicious lesions on their skin and/or signs of nerve-function impairment as they have a high risk of contracting the disease and if found, they should report to the clinic.