Plan to wipe out disease

Dr Catherine Foi, left, Dr Yadav Subhash from the World Health Organization, Dr Meciusela Tuicakau, Leprosy patient Paula Tulega, Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Atonio Lalabalavu and Dr Redwan Al-Khanm Bhuiyan after cutting the cake during the World Leprosy Day celebration at PJ Twomey Hospital in Tamavua. Picture: ATU RASEA

In a bid to eradicate leprosy in Fiji, the Health Ministry will strengthen its screening programs, says Dr Meciusela Tuicakau, a dermatologist at the Tamavua Twomey Hospital.

“The leprosy and dermatology teams have begun their actions in the mission to eradicate leprosy in Fiji,” he said at a World Leprosy Day event on Monday.

“We will also increase our active screening activities to the hot-spot areas and contacts of our active cases, this will be in collaboration with our public health team.”

Dr Tuicakau said out of the 140,546 leprosy cases detected worldwide, 2432 were from the western Pacific including Fiji.

“In Fiji, we continued to detect four to seven new cases every year.

“One of the issues we have realised is the increasing number of cases from our neighbouring Pacific island countries.

“Those who are in Fiji for studies, work, holidays and those who were referred.”

Leprosy is a debilitating disease caused by slow-growing bacteria which can affect the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose.

Paula Tulega of Nasoki, Moala, in Lau said he was not disheartened when nurses told him he had the sickness last year.

“From July to August, I was bedridden because of leprosy, it had affected my left hand,” he said.

“I have a piggery business and that was where I got the virus.

“When I came to the Twomey Hospital, I was informed by the doctor I had leprosy.

“I was shocked but not disheartened.”

Mr Tulega said through prayer, good care by doctors and nurses and medication, he had begun to recover from the disease.

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