St. Lucia Health Ministry notes uptick in leprosy cases in 2023

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

The Ministry of Health in St. Lucia said there was an uptick in leprosy cases on the island last year, which has led to the formulation of an action plan to eliminate the disease among its population.

According to the government of St. Lucia’s official Facebook page, the General Health Summary for 2023 published last week by the country’s Ministry of Health showed that the country recorded 11 new cases of leprosy which represents a 120% increase from 2020 to 2023.

The ministry did not detail information as it relates to the severity of the disease among those infected.

Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by a type of bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae, according to the World Health Organization. The disease predominantly affects the skin and peripheral nerves. Left untreated, the disease may cause progressive and permanent disabilities.

A national action plan has now been drafted towards the elimination of leprosy on island.

This includes an educational public health campaign, and intensive contact tracing in the affected communities.

“A national action plan has been drafted for the elimination of Leprosy on island. This includes an educational public health campaign, intensive contact tracing in the affected communities, re-training of health care workers towards early detection and diagnosis, increased in-country testing and more aggressive and consistent treatment,” St. Lucia’s government said.

Over the weekend, Barbados health officials confirmed one leprosy case on the island.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Arthur Phillips, in an update with Barbados Today, informed that the affected individual is currently undergoing treatment, with just a month or two left in their regimen.

Dr. Phillips highlighted that this is an isolated case, and the situation is under control. He assured residents that there is no need to panic.

Health authorities in Barbados have also devised a national plan aimed at eliminating leprosy from the island.

The last time there was a significant uptick in leprosy cases in the Caribbean was in 2021, when Cuba, Guyana, Dominican Republic, and Haiti reported spike in cases.

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