New Delhi: India has achieved a huge milestone in eradicating polio but when it comes to leprosy, the chilling fact is that cases are on the rise. In fact, India accounts for 55 per cent of the world's leprosy cases.
India officially eliminated leprosy six years ago, but reports now suggest that the cases of leprosy are going up, especially in urban areas.
Out of the 2.1 lakh cases in the world nearly 1.27 lakh are from India, that's 55 percent of the total leprosy cases.
But what's worrying is that in cities like Bangalore, 121 cases out of 131 last year were infectious. The big reason, experts say is that most cases are going unreported at the early stages of the disease when it can be treated. That's because India stopped leprosy surveys in 2002 following WHO guidelines.
Father George Kannanthanam, Sumanahalli Leprosy Rehabilitation Centre, says, "Last year four children who came here were multi bacillary cases they could become deformed for life. So this is a trend that we are seeing that all the cases that are coming in now are serious cases and they are being missed out because the survey was not done."
In Bangalore the recorded number of cases went from 135 in 2008 to 321 last year. But even that many say is not the true picture and that if a proper leprosy survey is done the figure could be even higher.
Father George Kannanthanam says, "We are in touch with a large number of medical colleges and other hospitals and they are getting big numbers of leprosy patients and treating them. But these numbers are not added anywhere in the government statistics."
Amidst the gloom there are bright spots. 10-year-old Mahadev who was detected with leprosy at an early stage by rehabilitation centres has now fully recovered. He topped class this year.
Mahadev says, "I want to become a police office so that I can get respect in the society."
But Mahadev's story is a rare success. Rehabilitation centres in the city say the only way to fight leprosy effectively is by beginning surveys all over again.