Ministry of Health announces actions against leprosy in purple January

The Ministry of Health (MS) announced this Tuesday (25) actions for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of leprosy. The initiatives were publicized as part of the campaign to mobilize the fight against the disease called Janeiro Roxo.

Three new tests were incorporated into the Unified Health System to detect the pathology. A new clinical protocol with treatment guidelines will be published in March, with guidance for healthcare professionals.

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There will be a training campaign for primary care physicians, dubbed the Leprosy Health Wagon. Qualifications will be held in five states: Mato Grosso, Maranhão, Ceará, Piauí and Bahia.

Another initiative will be the implementation of Telehans, a remote service to help carry out leprosy diagnoses. The purpose is to expand the resolution of the disease diagnoses. An app will also be made available to support healthcare professionals with examinations and treatments.

The representatives of the Ministry of Health added that a distance education course on the subject will be offered for health professionals. The folder will also conduct a national survey on the situation of leprosy patients.

The Minister of Health, Marcelo Queiroga, recalled that the Unified Health System (SUS) is essential for combating the disease and treating patients with it. “Where there is no economic return, sometimes the pharmaceutical industry turns its back. It is necessary that the Union, states and municipalities, through the SUS, manage to have more efficient health surveillance”, he defended.

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During the pandemic, a drop in new case records was identified. While in 2019, 27,684 new leprosy diagnoses were confirmed, in 2020 the number was 17,979. The representative of the National Council of Health Secretaries (Conass), Nereu Mansano, expressed concern about this reduction.

“The drop in detection rate is not always good news. In these last two years [a redução] is due to the lower demand for the diagnosis. This increases the risk of a diagnosis at a more advanced stage and a greater risk of sequelae”, he declared.

The president of the National Council of Municipal Health Departments (Conasems), Willames Freire, drew attention to the fact that the disease affects more intensely the poorest people and argued about the importance of expanding diagnostic and treatment actions.

“We are committed to resuming after a pandemic to include more and more people who are somehow on the sidelines because of the difficulty of access in this period”, he said.

Epidemiological scenario

According to an epidemiological bulletin on leprosy in Brazil, released by the Ministry of Health today, the nearly 18,000 new cases in Brazil in 2020 represent 93.6% of the new diagnoses reported in the Americas that year. Brazil, India and Indonesia alone accounted for 74% of the 127,396 new cases worldwide.

As for the sociodemographic profile, in recent years (2016-2020) the disease was more prevalent in men (55%) than women (44%); in pardos (58.9%) than whites (24%) and blacks (12%) and in the range of people with incomplete elementary education (40.9%) than among those with high school and complete higher education (15% ).

The regions with the highest rates of infection (per 100,000 inhabitants) in recent years were the Midwest, North and Northeast. In 2020, the states with the highest rates were Mato Grosso (71.4%), Tocantins (53.9%) and Maranhão (28%).

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