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FG raises concern over increasing cases of leprosy among children

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A man afflcited with leprosy (AFP Photo/Ye Aung Thu)

The Federal Government yesterday expressed worries over the continued presence of undetected Leprosy cases, especially among children in the country.

Speaking at the 2019 World Leprosy Day with the theme: Ending Discrimination, Stigma and Prejudice, Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, noted that 2,442 new Leprosy cases were reported.

He said the National Tuberculosis (TB) and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) notified the ministry about the development in 2017, saying 184 or 7.5 per cent of the cases were children, while 361 cases or 15 per cent had acquired irreversible disability, due to late presentation at health care facilities.

He added that 522 new Leprosy cases were reported in 2018, of which five per cent were children and 13 per cent were already with disability.

“This indicates ongoing transmission within communities; just as permanent disability indicates that cases existed unreported in communities for years,” he said.

Ehanire noted that stigma and discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their families still remained a major challenge in the country, adding that there were many wrong beliefs about the disease.

He stated that the World Health Organisation (WHO) developed the Global Leprosy Strategy 2016‒2020 to strengthen efforts for leprosy control at global level, while the Ministry of Health domesticated the document and launched a five-year National Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Strategic Plan (2016–2020) in 2016.

However, Lassa fever outbreak in parts of the country has killed 12 more persons and infected 74 people, including a health worker in seven states.

Latest figures released yesterday by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) showed that in the reporting Week 03 (January 14-20, 2019) 74 new confirmed cases were reported from Edo, Ondo, Bauchi, Ebonyi, Plateau, Taraba and Adamawa states with 12 new deaths.

A breakdown of the figures showed: 31 cases were from Edo; Ondo (18); Bauchi (seven); Ebonyi (two); Plateau (10); Taraba (five) and Adamawa (one).

A breakdown of the dead showed three deaths from Ondo, Edo (four), Ebonyi (one), Plateau (two), Taraba (one) and Adamawa (one).

According to the NCDC, from January 1-20, 2019, no fewer than 377 suspected cases have been reported in nine states of which 136 were confirmed positive and 240 negative.

It noted that since the 2019 outbreak, there have been 31 deaths in confirmed cases and 22.8 per cent Case Fatality Rate (CFR) in confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet) has raised alarm over possible outbreak of climate-induced diseases such as malaria, cerebrospinal meningitis and respiratory diseases in parts of the country this year.

NiMet, in its 2019 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP), forecast that high temperature, rainfall, relative humidity and harmattan dust will trigger the diseases.

It predicted that incidences of malaria and other diseases would be higher in areas with high temperatures in the range of 18 to 32 degrees Celsius associated with high relative humidity above 60 per cent precipitation.

It explained that areas covered by thick vegetation that provide environmental conditions conducive for the survival of vector and development of malaria parasites, were also prone to malaria spread.

Also, climatic and environmental conditions expected in January, February, March and April would make some states vulnerable to malaria.

“High vigilance is required in the coastal cities of Lagos, Abakiliki, Eket and Calabar; moderate vigilance in parts of Lagos, Ogun, Ondo and southern states and low vigilance over the rest of the country.

“In February, high vigilance is advisable in parts of Lagos, Ogun and southern states; moderate vigilance required over Ogun, Owerri, southern states and parts of Lagos and Enugu states, while the rest will require low vigilance.

“High vigilance is required over southern states; moderate vigilance in Enugu, Ondo Ebonyi and parts of Kogi, Cross River, Benue, Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Delta states in March.

“In April, high vigilance is required over the south and parts of Kogi, Benue, Plateau and Kwara states and moderate vigilance over Abuja, parts of Kogi, Kwara, Niger, Nassarawa, Benue, Plateau and Taraba states,’’ it stated.

On cerebrospinal meningitis, NiMet disclosed that low relative humidity, absence of rainfall, high temperatures, dry north easterly winds and surface dust conditions would encourage the spread of the disease up to mid-March.

It said the meningitis epidemiologic season would observe slight increase in cases due to intensifying effects of harmattan over the northern and central states.

On respiratory diseases, NiMet warned that harmattan dust in the months of December to mid-March would likely increase incidences of asthma, bronchitis, flu silicosis and lung cancer, among others.


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