The Provincial Health Office has confirmed new cases of leprosy among indigenous people (IP) in Rizal town.
Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Mary Ann Navarro, said the leprosy cases were discovered during the “Kilatis Kutis,” an awareness campaign on leprosy and other skin diseases, organized on October 4-6 by the Municipal Health Office and Rural Health Unit of Rizal.
“After undergoing skin-slit smear, some tested positive for leprosy,” she told Palawan News by phone Wednesday, October 11. “They are being treated and their cases do not pose a danger to public health.”
Navarro did not disclose the exact number of leprosy patients, pending the approval of the Rizal health officers who conducted the test.
Since the affected IPs live far from the health clinic, she said their diagnosis came late.
“We’re not singling them out as the only vulnerable group to this disease. In fact, anyone can have leprosy,” Navarro added.
Leprosy is curable
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), leprosy is a chronic disease caused by slow-multiplying Mycobacterium leprae bacteria, which mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract, and also the eyes.
Navarro said leprosy is curable, with multidrug therapy treatment lasting to a minimum of one to one and a half year.
While leprosy is an infectious disease, she said it’s not that contagious as it takes time before it can infect other individuals.
“It takes long exposure, close contact with the affected individual before you can contract the disease,” the health official added.
Although not highly infectious, Navarro said leprosy is transmitted via droplets, from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contacts with untreated cases.
The incubation period of the disease, on average, is five years, the WHO said. In some cases, symptoms may occur within one year but can also take as long as 20 years to occur.
Keep good hygiene
Navarro advised individuals to immediately seek medical help if they spot leprosy’s main symptoms, such as “disfiguring skin sores, lumps, or bumps that do not go away after several weeks or months.”
Treating the disease in its early stages would keep it from progressing and causing permanent damage to skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes.
Navarro reminded the public to maintain good hygiene, with emphasis on taking a bath daily using clean water and changing clothes when it gets wet and dirty.