13 May 2018

Ethiopia: Hansen's Disease That Must Be Arrested

For the past ten years now, 4000 people go to different health centers with Hansen's disease every year.

Yet the incidence is considered by the World Health Organiza tion(WHO) as business as usual and not a big deal.

Approached by The Ethiopian Herald Dr. Shimelse Niguse, Derma tology and Venereal Diseases specialist at AlERT Hospital said, over the past ten years, 4000 new patients annually visit different health centers. This number is constant year after year. "To the best of my knowledge, the awareness level of people towards the disease is extremely low as much has not been done pertaining to arresting leprosy. The disease can unquestionably be cured since extremely valuable and risk-free drugs for the treatment is accessible free of charge," he added.

He went on to say, transmission result from close and long-drawn-out contact with untreated and infected person. Indirect transmission is very improbable. As the bacteria proliferate at a snail's pace, leprosy is not exceedingly transmissible. I would say, the cause behind the increasing incidence of leprosy in Ethiopia is not placing much attention to Hansen's disease. Quite the opposite, if we go to various parts of the country and do a physical examination, the number will unquestionably increase.

"Unless people witness symptoms, they do not dare go to any health institutions. From this fact, we can conclude that much has not been done on the disease. When people experience loss or the dwindling of sensation in the skin patch, lack of feeling or sense itching of the hand or feet, suffer excruciating pains on nerves, inflammation in the face, simple injuries on the hands or feet, they do not have to rub their eyes for a fraction of a second from going to a close by health center. At the moment, much attention is given to fatal diseases such as Tuberculosis, HIV and AIDS, malaria, among others. But they do not think of being physically challenged. The existing number concerning leprosy does not have to be seen easily. The number is not insignificant," he added.

He further noted, to get to the bottom of this problem, trainings must be offered for professionals by allocating a large amount of capital. The number of physicians in the area should increase every so often. If you look at the rule, people with Hansen's disease can get treatment in any health institutions of the country without charge. Furthermore, patients with the disease do not have to come to Addis Ababa for receiving treatment. They should be able to get treatment at their respective areas.

"It is said that Hansen's disease has been declining. As for me, it is difficult to accept this bold claim as we observe constant figure year on year. Yes, the number may seem small in terms of the population of Ethiopia. As for me, our focus does not have to be on the number. Research should be done on the new ones as well. The disease, which causes mutilation and mayhem, can be cured easily. Sadly, people with leprosy come to our hospital, after their legs and hands had been already damaged. When citizens observe the symptoms, they should go to health institutions almost immediately," he concluded.


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