ROTARIANS in Warwick were taken aback by shock stats about leprosy.
Warwick Rotary Club is calling for more to be done to tackle the disease around the globe after hearing someone is diagnosed with leprosy every two minutes.
Guy Willcock from the Leprosy Mission – England and Wales visited the rotary club to talk about the disease members had thought was consigned to the Middle Ages.
Such was the fear associated with it that people affected by the disease were expelled from their communities. In Warwick the remains of St Michaels Hospital lie in Saltisford outside the town walls, and in Greece until 1957 they were taken to the island of Spinalonga.
Mr Willcock told Rotarians that despite multi-drug therapy being available since the 1980’s, people often still hide the symptoms until it is too late, fearing the reaction of their families and community.
Leprosy is a bacterial disease, affecting the nervous system so it doesn’t feel pain. If untreated this leads to the loss of peripheral limbs through injury. It only costs £24 for three forms of antibiotics administered over six to 12 months to cure people of the disease.
It can be caught by anyone but most people have a strong immune system, and would not be affected by the bacteria, boosted by good sanitation and nutrition. In the third world these are often absent due to extreme poverty.
Across the globe there are over 200,000 people diagnosed each year in India, Brazil and Africa with even 200 cases in the USA.
The Leprosy Mission England and Wales serves ten countries – five in Asia and five in Africa. Twenty-eight missions have established hospitals and work with governments to identify those vulnerable and provide drugs and reconstructive surgery. The missions also deliver advocacy, education and vocational training enabling sufferers to recover some independence and earn a living.
Concerned Rotarians enquired whether a vaccine was available. This is still a “work in progress” by the Leprosy Mission America. However, improving sanitation, nutrition and living conditions enhances people’s immune system to ‘fight off’ the bacteria.
The Leprosy Mission England and Wales are currently running an emergency appeal for funding to power hospitals in Niger and deliver starvation survival packs.
For more information visit www.leprosymission.org.uk