If I have leprosy, how will I know?….(1)
Doc, I work in a leper colony, I mean in a hospital attached to a leper colony. I am a laboratory technologist. Recently I started feeling unwell. I know all the signs and symptoms of leprosy, but none of my symptoms matched that of leprosy. I became a CID(his own letters) for leprosy. I started interviewing some of my leprosy patients. I asked them how they discovered that they had leprosy. One woman’s account struck me – she said after mixing hot water with cold one, for her daughter to take bath, her daughter would scream that the water was too hot, but when she touched the water, it would be only mildly warm.
That this differential appreciation of hot and warm water, happened repeatedly, that she became worried and consulted a doctor. After series of tests she was finally referred to Uzuakoli Leprosy Hospital. Where they conducted further tests and confirmed that she had leprosy.
The narration above, was rendered by my former staff of Health Management Board(HMB) Umuahia, who I met at Ozuitem in Bende LGA, two weeks ago, when I attended a funeral service of a colleague’s wife. I did not know he had been transferred to Uzuakoli Leprosy Hospital. He continued his story.
“Doc, then I went to one of our doctors and complained. He examined me, collected some samples and gave me to do series of tests, including that of leprosy. Everything came out negative. I am still very apprehensive, this is because not too long ago three members of our staff, had been diagnosed with leprosy. At first, we did not know how they contracted it.
After extensive epidemiological research, it was discovered that our 3 staff contracted the leprosy from the relatives of our patients. Who, those staff, out of sympathy, allowed to sleep in their staff quarters, not knowing they were carriers of leprosy. Doc, I am truly afraid.
We know that the medical profession is very hazardous. I know some of us could be very offensive, callous and inconsiderate, in their treatment of patients and their relatives, but I plead with people to sometimes overlook our indiscretion and forgive us, knowing that we sometimes in our lines of duty pay the ultimate price with our lives.
Yes, I know the reader, would like to know how I handled the problem of my former staff. After series of tests, I diagnosed what he had as – “anxiety neurosis ” with phobia for leprosy. Gave him some anxiolytics. He is now okay. Same applies to all us. We should be very careful with our interactions, especially when in a strange crowd. I know leprosy is usually the last thing in our minds.
One of my former Directors, who listened to the laboratory technologist’s complaints, was very cynical with disbelief. He stated that in 10 years he was yet to see any person with leprosy. I shocked him by reeling out verifiable statistics. Let me also shock all of us a little. Please tarry awhile and read me.
- In a data released by World Heath Organization’s Global Health Data Reposition – Nigeria was ranked 3rd among African Countries with new cases of leprosy put at 2,892 a year. First was Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC) with – 4,237 new cases of leprosy. Second was Ethiopia with – 3,970. Many people did not know this.
- Listen, in 10 years, out of 212,000 new cases of leprosy in Africa 1) DRC has – 62,285. 2) Ethiopia – 47,304 and 3) Nigeria – 43,179. You still don’t believe me. Let me shock you further.
- Minister of Health Prof Isaac Adewale on January 29, 2017, during the 64th Anniversary of World Leprosy Day, with the theme – “Zero Disability Among Children Affected by Leprosy ” said, leprosy still posed a challenge due to pockets of high endemicity of leprosy in Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Kebbi, Bauchi, Taraba, Niger, Kogi, Ebonyi, Abia, Cross River, Edo, Osun, Ogun and Lagos States. The new leprosy cases of 2,892 were discovered in these States. Please count these States, and tell me how many States are left.
- The Minister of Health also noted that, through out history, leprosy has been feared and misunderstood with several mythical and cultural undertones attached to it. For a long time leprosy was thought to be a hereditary disease, a contagious disease and a punishment from God, as there are stories in the Bible that suggest this. Even after the discovery of its biological causes, leprosy patients are still stigmatized and shunned.
- The good news however, is that with a combination-therapy of drugs, leprosy could be totally cured in six months. Can you beat that?
- Next week Sunday Sun is a must-read for us to find out how digital leprosy has gone with its signs and symptoms, and what science is doing to fight back. Keep a date.
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