Health
Leprosy continues to maim Africans
Publish Date: Jan 24, 2014
Leprosy continues to maim Africans
Senegalese patient, Ndoffene Diene, aged 77, shows his hands after receiving treatment and be cured of leprosy. PHOTO/AFP
  • mail
  • img
newvision

DAKAR - Modou Gaye sits on a hospital bed in Senegal, his left leg stretched the length of the mattress, the right one amputated below the knee.

Afflicted by recurrent yet mysterious sores, he had done the rounds of traditional practitioners and physicians who prescribed him various plants and potions but were unable to tell him he had leprosy.

"I didn't know anything about the disease," the 32-year-old street peddler from central Senegal tells AFP in his native language, Wolof.

Gaye's story typifies the experience of many patients who one day notice an innocuous, painless blemish on the skin, and later discover they have leprosy, a condition which is easy to combat yet which continues to cripple and exclude millions worldwide.

When Gaye was finally diagnosed the young father was lucky to receive care from the Hospital of the Order of Malta (HOM), a medical facility in the capital Dakar at the forefront of treatment of the disease.

But it was too late to save his right leg, the bone already too badly damaged.

Leprosy, transmitted most effectively in overcrowded conditions with poor sanitation, "afflicts the poorest, the most vulnerable", says Dr Charles Kinkpe, chief medical officer at HOM, which provides free care for the destitute.

"They often wait until the last minute to be seen," laments the orthopaedic surgeon. Yet the bacterial illness can be easily cured before it causes serious damage.

Multi-drug therapy (MDT), available free of charge through the World Health Organisation since the 1980s, consists of three antibiotics which together can cure patients in a few months.

But often those afflicted with leprosy do not know how to spot the signs early on and the disease takes an insidious hold, attacking nerve endings, destroying the ability to feel pain and injury.


Rene Badji presents shoes made for victims of leprosy. PHOTO/AFP
 


Former lepers sit on a bench in Mballing, renamed by the authorities as a village of social rehabilitation in Senegal. PHOTO/AFP

Over 200,000 new cases a year

"They burn themselves holding a hot pan or injure their feet walking on glass, for example, and do not realise," Kinkpe told AFP.

Unable to sense these injuries, patients are susceptible to sores and infections which can eventually lead to the loss of fingers, hands, toes and feet, blindness and facial disfigurement.

"People with leprosy are isolated, kept remote -- people don't touch them. People say they are cursed," says Diemg Mas, a 33-year-old teacher who has been receiving treatment for nearly two years.

Women sometimes hide the illness for fear of being rejected by their husbands.

Organisations dealing with leprosy combat prejudice through eduction, hammering home the message that leprosy is not hereditary, nor a sign of a divine curse.

They point out that 95 percent of humans are actually naturally immune to what campaigners call the world's "least contagious communicable disease".

Treated in 1976 and cured permanently, 60-year-old Moustapha Seck stayed at HOM and now manufactures orthopaedic shoes for those crippled by leprosy.

"When they put them on, first they walk, then they dance with joy," he says proudly.

Between 200 and 300 new cases of leprosy are reported each year in Senegal but doctors believe that only a small proportion of patients are detected.

"If nothing is done we can expect an increase in prevalence," warns Professor Charles Badiane of HOM.

Considerable progress has been made in the fight against leprosy but it remains present in more than 100 countries in Africa, America, Asia and the Pacific.

World Leprosy Day -- a period of three days, in fact, aimed at raising awareness of the disease -- begins on Friday and organisers hope to communicate the message that, despite more than 200,000 new cases being detected in 2012, it can be eradicated.

AFP

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Liberia
Violence erupts in an Ebola quarantine zone in Liberia's capital when soldiers open fire and use tear gas on crowds....
Japan man is world
A Japanese man born months before the Wright brothers carried out the first human flight was recognised Wednesday as the world's oldest male at the age of 111....
Uganda is Ebola-free - health ministry
There is no confirmed case of Ebola in the country, the ministry of health has said. The suspected Ebola patient screened at Entebbe International Airport has tested negative for the deadly virus....
Ebola crisis: In pictures
The WHO reports that more than 1,000 people have died from the Ebola virus in West Africa in the latest outbreak....
Infected Ebola patients flee after attack on clinic
17 Ebola patients in Liberia who fled from a quarantine centre after it was attacked by club-wielding youths were missing on Sunday....
River blindness: 200 millionth patient treated in Uganda
At least 200 million people have been treated for river blindness in endemic countries in Africa and Latin America, under a campaign to eliminate the debilitating disease....
Will strict traffic laws reduce road accidents?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter