The World Leprosy Day is observed internationally every year on last Sunday of January month to raise global awareness of Leprosy. This year it was observed on 28 January. Observance of the day focuses on target of zero cases of leprosy-related disabilities in children.
The day was initiated by French philanthropist and writer, Raoul Follereau in 1954 as way to raise global awareness of this deadly ancient disease and call attention to the fact that it can be prevented, treated and cured.
Leprosy (also known as Hansen’s disease) is one of the oldest diseases known to humankind. It is caused by by a slow-growing type of bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae), which multiplies very slowly in the human body. The bacterium has a long incubation period (on average 5 years or longer). The disease affects nerve endings and destroys the body’s ability to feel pain and injury. It is chronic granulomatous disease that mainly affects skin and peripheral nervous system. It can also affect the eyes and respiratory system. It is curable with multidrug therapy (MDT). Treatment provided in the early stages averts disability.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), despite being eliminated globally as public health problem in 2000, leprosy continues to mar lives of individuals, and impacts families and communities. In 2015, Leprosy affected 212 000 more people globally of them 60% were in India.