14 countries are responsible for 95% of all new cases in the world.
Although the number of new cases of leprosy has come down significantly in recent decades, it remains a widespread disease. According to the WHO’s global leprosy update for 2015, published in the September 2 issue of the Weekly epidemiological record, 210,758 new cases were reported by136 countries and territories in all WHO regions.
This is 21% less cases compared to 10 years ago, although 92 countries did not report, including some known to have cases of leprosy.
The latest figures reveal that the majority of new cases continue to be detected in just a few countries. India bears the brunt with 60% of the global case load (127,326 cases), followed by Brazil, 13% (26,395 cases) and Indonesia 8% (17,202 cases). Including these three countries, 14 countries were responsible for 95% of all new cases in 2015.
New cases with Grade 2 (visible) disabilities (G2D) accounted for 8% (14,059 cases) of the global total, indicating that many patients are being detected late and may already have spread the infection to others. As for new child cases, these made up 8.9% (18,796 cases) of all cases, indicating that active transmission in communities is still occurring.
The WHO’s Global Leprosy Strategy 2016-2020: “Accelerating towards a leprosy-free world” includes among its three target indicators zero GD2 among children diagnosed with leprosy and the reduction of new leprosy cases with G2D to less than 1 per million population. In 2015, 39 countries registered zero children with GD2 and 50 countries had a G2D rate among new cases of below 1 per million population.
For the first time, the WHO sought data on the number of foreign-born patients among new cases. Of 62 countries reporting, 18 countries reported a total of 743 cases. The highest number of foreign-born patients was reported by Nepal and Malaysia, with 637 out of 2,571 cases, and 81 out of 210 cases, respectively.
The International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP) marked its 50th anniversary at its annual conference in October. The 15-member federation was founded in Bern, Switzerland in 1966 out of the need to coordinate the work of leprosy organizations in leprosy-endemic countries, preventing overlap and identifying gaps and partnerships. Today its members work in 67 countries.
ILEP used the occasion to officially launch its “Triple Zero” campaign. This new initiative supports global leprosy targets of zero transmission, zero disability and zero discrimination.