A majority of the NTD disease burden in Latin America and the Caribbean occurs in Brazil. This week, the Brazilian Ministry of Health is launching a public health campaign to diagnose and treat soil-transmitted helminths (or intestinal parasites) and leprosy in school-aged children. Over the next few days, we will be featuring stories related to the fight against NTDs in Brazil.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), pockets of high leprosy rates remain in some areas of Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal and the United Republic of Tanzania. India has the greatest incidence of leprosy, with 133,717 new cases in 2009; followed by Brazil, with 37,610 new cases in 2009. In Latin America and the Caribbean, leprosy is no longer a public health problem, except for in Brazil. The Brazilian government is working tirelessly to combat leprosy and to empower those who are currently affected. Because of this, Brazil is close to eliminating leprosy as a public health problem, which is defined as less than 1 case per 10,000 people.
Also known as Hansen’s disease, leprosy is caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium leprae and it is transmitted via droplets, from the nose and mouth, through close and frequent contact with untreated cases. Still, it is important to note that it is not highly infectious. Leprosy can cause permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes, if left untreated. The main treatment for leprosy is multidrug therapy (MDT), which includes dapsone, rifampicin and clofazimine. » Read more: Eliminating Leprosy in Brazil