Disease Prevention and Control / Communicable Diseases / Leprosy
Leprosy Cases in Brazil Drop by 24.27% in Two Years
Brasilia, 26 January 2006: In just two years, the reported number of new cases of leprosy (Hansen's disease) dropped by 24.27%, i.e. 10,900 people did not contract the disease in 2005. This is the result of massive efforts and investments on the part of the Ministry of Health for early detection and adequate treatment of people who have contracted the disease. The good news was presented today to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva by Minister of Health Saraiva Felipe. Also present at the meeting were Artur Custódio, president of the Movement to Reintegrate People Affected by Hansen's Disease (Movimento de Reintegração de Pessoas Atingidas pela Hanseníase / MORHAN), which is carrying out the important job of mobilizing society in collaboration with the Ministry; representatives from the Special Secretariat for Human Rights (Secretaria especial dos direitos humanos / SEDH) ; and singer Ney Matogrosso, spokesman in Brazil for the fight both against the disease and against the discrimination suffered by those who have it. (right: President Lula with M. Cristiano Claudinos Torres, vice president of MORHAN)
In 2005, the detection rate for Hansen's disease remained at 2.09 cases per 10,000 inhabitants. In 2004, the rate was 2.76 per 10,000, i.e. 38,400 new reports last year in comparison with 49,300 the previous year. With these indicators, for all intents and purposes, the expectation is that the disease will be eliminated by the end of 2006, according to PAHO's assessment: "Important reductions have taken place in just two years", affirmed PAHO's leprosy consultant, Dr. Vera Lúcia Gomes Andrade, who is part of the team that presented the data to President Lula.
Furthermore, in 2005, a 13,45% reduction in the prevalence rate was reported, or a drop from 1.71 inhabitants in 2004 to 1.48 in 2005. This rate was calculated on the basis of the number of patients being treated. In December 2005, 27,313 people were in treatment, in comparison with December 2004, when there were 30,600.
The investments made by the Ministry of the Health have almost doubled, increasing from R$ 7.7 million in 2004 to R$ 13.1 million in 2005 in an scaling-up started in 2003, when R$ 6.4 million were applied—the greatest volume since 2000—to enhancing the National Program to Eliminate Hansen's disease, which involves government at all levels-federal, state, and municipal-with organized civil society. In 2005, R$ 2.9 million were allocated to 176 priority municipalities (those where the greatest number of cases is concentrated), in addition to an investment of R$ 2 million into leprosy research.
Another 3.6 million reais were used to restructure the old hospitals-colonies. Telehansen, the broadcasting program run by the NGO MORHAN, received R$ 45,000. The Hansen's Disease Warning System was also put into operation by the National Board of the Municipal Health Secretaries (Conselho Nacional dos Secretários Municipais de Saúde / CONASEMS).
Expansion of the Network: Another advancement presented by the Minister to the President of the Republic was that the reduction in the incidence and number of cases was accompanied by the expansion of the leprosy diagnostic network. The increase in the number of units equipped to diagnose the disease will make it possible for them to identify the disease in its initial phase, thus contributing to a reduction in the chain of leprosy transmission, which passes from human to human through the respiratory tract.
In 2005, the number of health units throughout the country increased by 41.06%. A total of 12,151 health units were trained to carry out leprosy diagnosis. In 2004, the country had 8,614 such positions. These numbers indicate that the National Program to Eliminate of Hansen's disease (Programa Nacional de Eliminação da Hanseníase / PNEH), part of the Secretariat of Health Surveillance (Secretaria de Vigilância em Saúde / SVS), achieved the goal it set to intensify activities to ensure easy access (in terms of proximity) of diagnostic and treatment services for the people who need them.
The president of MORHAN, main partner of the Ministry of the Health in its activities to control the disease, publicly thanked President Lula for having signed a letter of global appeal to put an end to the stigma against people who have contracted Hansen's disease and to request the creation of an interministerial group to deal with issues related to leprosy elimination in the states and municipalities. (above: President Lula and representatives from PAHO/WHO, MS, SVS, PNEH, Secretariat for Human Rights, and MORHAN)
More Information: Hansen's disease is caused by a microbe, Mycobacterium leprae (Hansen's bacillus), that attacks the skin and the nerves, mainly the arms and legs. Hansen's disease is curable and, if detected early and treated adequately, does not leave any aftereffects. Any clear spot on the skin involving loss of sensitivity should be considered a possible sign of Hansen's disease and any person who believes that he or she may have contracted it should go immediately to a public health unit.
Source: "Casos de hanseníase caem 24,27% em dois anos". Ministério da Saúde del Brasil, Secretaria da Vigilância em Saúde (MS/SVS). (in Portuguese)