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Leprosy Re-emerges In Acholi Sub-Region

Jacob Ojok, Gulu district leprosy focal person



There is great concern among health experts in Acholi sub-region following the re-emergency of Leprosy diseases in the area.

At least 26 new cases of severe leprosy have been registered in seven districts in Acholi sub-region.

These include the districts of Gulu with five cases, Amuru with three cases, Kitgum with four cases, Pader with three cases, Lamwo with four cases, Nwoya with four cases and Omoro where three cases have been registered.

Jacob Ojok, the Gulu District Leprosy Focal Point Person said they are worried about the re-emergency of the airborne disease which normally deforms infected persons.

He has blamed the re-emergency of the disease on the lack of knowledge by health workers to diagnose and detect signs and symptoms of leprosy.

Ojok said leprosy is a curable disease if it’s detected early enough and treatment is administered but most people realise it when it is already severe to the extent that it has caused damage.

Many community members attribute leprosy to curses and witchcraft thereby leading to delays to seek expert medical care.

Ojok said leprosy takes between 5-10 years for signs and symptoms to be seen and most health workers are even unaware of the signs.

He noted that the situation is becoming serious in Gulu district and city, therefore there is need for training of health workers to begin diagnosis because the cases might increase in the near future.

Dr Jimmy Kumakech, the Regional Leprosy Coordinator said the re-emergency is a big concern because it’s again affecting physically and economically handicapped persons.

He said they have so far admitted 26 new cases on treatment and all are already at severe stage.

Kumakech said there is a need to begin mass diagnosis because the 26 cases clearly show that there are more people with disease within the community that do not know their status.

Leprosy is caused by infection with the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae and mainly affects the skin, eyes, and nose and peripheral nerves.

Symptoms include light-colored or red skin patches with reduced sensation, numbness and weakness in hands and feet.

Leprosy can be cured with 6-12 months of multi-drug therapy that when started early can lead to avoidance of disability.

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