Surigao health officials worried over leprosy victims who avoid treatment

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 Oct) – The City Health Office here said there are only a few documented cases of leprosy, but its officials are worried that more people might be suffering from the disease.

Jessica L. Nepomuceno, officer-in-charge for leprosy control program of the CHO, said that only seven people sought treatment for leprosy. But she said some people may have avoided the CHO because of the stigma that comes with the disease.

“When we tried to offer our service to them, these people would shun us away, denying they have this disease,” she said, adding that some of those afflicted would avoid the CHO because of the stigma.

She said most of the persons who sought for treatment were referred by dermatologists in the city.

Of seven people who have treatment last year, two were actually cured while the rest are still undergoing treatment.

Wikipedia said leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a chronic infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Initially infections are without symptoms and typically remain this way for 5 to as long as 20 years.

Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes, Wikipedia added. This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain and thus loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries. ] Weakness and poor eyesight may also be present.

Garrote Menor, a nurse at CHO, said they pity the leprosy victims because some parts of their body have already deformed.

Nepomuceno said she has seen some leprosy victims who already have deformities in their body but are still not seeking medical treatment. “Parts where deformities occurred can be very hard to treat,” she said.

The CHO is offering a free multi-drug therapy (MDT) for this disease. “This would take at least one year to complete the curing period,” Menor said.

Health officials said leprosy can infect other persons through nasal droplets. “Coughing and sneezing are among the causes of transmission,” Nepomuceno explained.

She advised that persons afflicted with leprosy should not hesitate to visit their office because the CHO does not charge for the medicines, adding that the anti-leprosy drugs are also not available in the drugstores.

“We have free medications and check ups,” Nepomuceno said.