World Leprosy Day 2017 Celebrations in Sri Lanka


National Leprosy Day 2017 was commemorated at the Health Education Bureau of the Ministry of Health. The event was themed "A Leprosy Free Sri Lanka by 2020" and was held under the auspices of Dr.Jayasundara Bandara, Director General Of Health Services 

Here is the latest from the Anti- Leprosy Campaign of the Ministry of Health on Leprosy in Sri Lanka



What is leprosy?

Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by a bacteria (Mycobacterium leprae), which affects the skin and the peripheral nerves.
Transmission of leprosy occurs by droplet infection. The disease is transmitted from human to human and there is no known reservoir or a vector. The disease is not spread to others by a person who has taken treatment.
Leprosy is easily diagnosable, treatable and curable. Leprosy is diagnosed mainly by clinical criteria.
A major issue associated with leprosy is the development of disabilities leading to loss of productivity and social stigma. These disabilities result from reactions occurring at any stage of the disease even after completion of treatment. The disabilities could be prevented by early detection and treatment. 

History of leprosy in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, the first Leprosy hospital was started by the Dutch rulers in 1708. Effective treatment for leprosy was discovered in the 1940s. In 1954, Anti-Leprosy Campaign was established as a vertical program in the country. Nowadays leprosy is treated with more than one antibiotic for 6 or 12 months depending on the type of disease.  In 1989, Anti-Leprosy Campaign launched the most successful social marketing campaign against leprosy and it enhanced the self-reporting among affected patients. In 1995, Sri Lanka achieved the elimination target as a country. Following this in 2001, leprosy services were integrated into to the general health services in the county.

Current situation of leprosy in Sri Lanka 

  1. Around 2000 new patients are being reported every year for the past 10 years
  2. Up to now, 1821 patients were identified in 2016
  3. Patients are reported from 26 districts in the country
  4. Nearly 43% of the patients were reported from Western province which amounts to 779 patients
  5. Highest number of cases in 2016 are from Colombo district (279 cases)
  6. Sri Lanka compared to other South East Asian countries has a high percentage (9-10% of patients) with visible deformities at the time of diagnosis
  7. Percentage of children less than 15 years was nearly 9-10% indicating active transmission of disease from undiagnosed leprosy patients
  8. Child cases were high in districts such as Colombo, Gampaha, and Galle
  9. Nearly 50% of new patients were diagnosed late more than 6 months after appearance of symptoms indicating lack of awareness among the public

Leprosy control activities in Sri Lanka 

Consultant Dermatologists are responsible for the diagnosis and management of the disease in the country. Regional Epidemiologist and Leprosy Control PHI attached to the Regional Director of Health Services are responsible for leprosy control activities at district level. Leprosy was made a notifiable disease in 2013 and all leprosy patients are visited and followed up by range PHIs in their homes to ensure compliance and to carry out contact tracing.
Anti-Leprosy Campaign is responsible for technical guidance, training of staff and policy planning.


Leprosy free Sri Lanka 


To stop transmission of the disease and to plan and implement cost effective quality leprosy services to all persons affected with leprosy and to sustain such services to ensure a reasonable quality of life to those affected.

Major Challenges faced by Anti-Leprosy Campaign

  • Unabated active transmission of the disease and lack of reduction of leprosy burden for the last 15 years (annually around 2000 cases)
  • Delayed presentation and defaulting from treatment at clinics
  • Clinical management aspects including case detection, reaction management needs improving
  • Need for prevention of disabilities and rehabilitation
  • Inadequate trained human resources available at Central and district level for leprosy control

Major activities carried out by Anti-Leprosy Campaign

  • Satellite clinics were established in all districts to improve new case detection and improve accessibility for the patients
  • House to house and community screenings in high endemic pockets
  • Leprosy post-exposure chemoprophylaxis pilot study started in Puttalam and Kalutara districts
  • Launching of Anti-Leprosy Campaign website
  • Training of all preventive and curative health staff in the country
  • Conducting mobile monthly clinics in CMC area
  • Monitoring and evaluation of Dermatology clinics and Satellite clinics
  • Monitoring and evaluation of district Leprosy control activities
  • Strengthening the infrastructure of Dermatology clinics and Satellite clinics
  • Organise International training programs for public and curative health staff
  • Conduct local and international research studies
  • Develop Health Education Material for the country
  • Strengthening contact tracing activities in the country
  • Coordinating Leprosy control activities of all Government and Non-Governmental Stakeholders in the country
  • Implementing new innovative strategies in leprosy control with Consultant Dermatologists in the country
  • Represent Sri Lanka in evaluation of Global leprosy control activities in the world


Highlights of the event are below: