Leprosy elimination

Elimination of leprosy FAQ

What is meant by eliminating leprosy as a public health problem?

In this context it means reducing the proportion of leprosy patients in the community to very low levels, specifically to below one case per 10 000 population.

What was the essential message conveyed by WHO in establishing the goal of eliminating leprosy as a public health problem?

When it first set the goal for elimination at a global level by the year 2000, WHO wanted to show that leprosy was not an endless problem, that it was curable and that, within a foreseeable period and through the effective application of the latest available technology, it was possible to reduce the prevalence of the disease to such a low level that it would no longer constitute a public health problem. The year chosen was a convenient and very visible date, because it coincided with other public health targets for 2000.

The turn of the century thus offered an opportunity to mobilise resources and political commitment on a global level to step up leprosy control activities sufficiently to meet the goal. Elimination at the global level was a necessary first step in reaching the same goal at national and sub-national levels, and was reached, on target, by the end of 2000.

What exactly is the basis for setting this goal?

Many countries have already demonstrated that it is possible to bring about a significant reduction in the prevalence and number of new cases detected by treating and curing patients with multidrug therapy (MDT).

Why has a prevalence of below one case per 10 000 population been chosen as the level of elimination?

There are some indications that around the prevalence level of one in 10 000 there is a tendency for the disease to die out, and any resurgence of the disease is highly improbable.