New Leprosy Cases - Ministry of Health Issues Statement

Tuesday, Jan 30


he Ministry of Health has noted an increase in the number of leprosy diagnoses on-island which is a cause for concern.

Ministry Officials are encouraging citizens to be vigilant and monitor for the symptoms associated with the illness.

Ministry of Health Community Dermatologist, Keturah Edwin-Tobias, says leprosy is curable and the medicines are available in Saint Lucisa free of charge.

Leprosy is a chronic disease which affects the skin, nerves and eyes and is caused by a bacterium (Mycobacterium Leprae). Leprosy is curable using a combination of drugs which are available free of charge within the public health system,” Dr. Edwin-Tobias said.

She dispels the misconception that leprosy is an illness of the past. Dr. Edwin-Tobias says the number of leprosy cases keeps increasing.

Leprosy is not an illness of the past, it still affects millions of persons around the world and scores of St Lucians today! In 2023 the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs registered 11 new cases and at the start of 2024 has already diagnosed new cases,” she said.

Unlike other illnesses, leprosy has a long incubation period. Patients can be infected and not display symptoms for up to five years after.

This infection may be transmitted mainly through droplets from the nose and mouth during prolonged close contact with untreated leprosy cases. It has a long incubation period, on average, at least 5 years. That means someone could be infected with leprosy but NOT show any signs (lesions on the body) or symptoms (loss of feeling and decreased sweating in the lesions) for up to 5 years,” she explained.

The Ministry Official aid treatments will be made available for citizens who have been in contact with leprosy patients.

This year we intend to introduce treatment for persons who have had close contact with someone with leprosy. This medication will help in reducing the chances of getting Leprosy. One single dose of Rifampicin can lower the possibility of you getting Leprosy if you have been in close contact with an infected person,” remarked Dr Edwin-Tobias.

The Ministry of Health is urging everyone to closely monitor themselves and their family members for any signs of leprosy. It is essential to seek medical attention at the nearest healthcare facility promptly.