The National Leprosy Control Program (NLCP) says it has stepped up contact tracing for people exposed to leprosy to help fight the disease in the country.
Dr Benedict Okoe Quao, NLCP program manager, said it was important because if cases were not detected early and treated quickly and completely, those affected could develop disability.
The program manager was speaking at a national stakeholder meeting on leprosy contact tracing and post-exposure prophylaxis guidelines.
Dr Quao said contact tracing for leprosy was a serious concern because the disease could cause permanent nerve damage leading to disability.
He said leprosy was a disease of the skin and nerves caused by a germ called Mycobacterium leprae, which belonged to the same family as tuberculosis and Buruli ulcer.
He explained that although the disease could spread from person to person, it could be cured and disability prevented.
“By preventing physical impairments and disabilities, we can cure people affected by leprosy without any evidence that they have ever been infected with leprosy,” he said.
Dr Quao said that as part of efforts to ensure Ghana achieves Zero Leprosy by 2030, a planned inauguration of the Zero Leprosy Action Plan and National Partnership would take place in 2023 on World Leprosy Day. Meadow.
He therefore urged the public to seek early treatment for skin diseases that had refused to go away after a while as it could be leprosy.
Contact tracing helps control diseases that can spread from person to person and involves identifying people who have been exposed to someone with an infectious disease and are at risk of developing the disease as well.
Ms Victoria Nyarkoh, Pharmacist, NLCP, speaking on the role of contact tracing, said it would help reduce and potentially stop the continued transmission of leprosy in communities.
She said contact tracing in the past has helped control diseases such as influenza, tuberculosis, yaws and COVID-19.
It is therefore important to protect contacts from future leprosy using existing prevention strategies such as single-dose rifampin (SDR-PEP), Ms Nyarko said.
Pharmacists said boosting existing contact tracing, together with the provision of preventive chemotherapy for leprosy contacts, promised to be a game-changer in the fight against the ancient disease.
Ms. Nyarko called for new tools to achieve zero leprosy by 2030 even faster.
Dr. Francis Kasolo, Country Representative of the World Health Organization (WHO), in a speech read on his behalf, said that close contact with leprosy cases, especially in poor environmental conditions, is was found to be the primary driver of the disease.
He said on the basis that the WHO had made recommendations for strengthening surveillance and active case detection.
Dr Kasolo called for established systems in Ghana for awareness and effective collaboration to eliminate leprosy.
Leprosy survivor Mr. Kofi Nyarko called for public education about the disease to help in the elimination process.