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The twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda has managed to remain free from leprosy cases for over two decades, according to Health Minister Sir Molwyn Joseph.
Despite this, his ministry continues to closely monitor the situation as cases of leprosy have been reported in several Caribbean countries, including Martinique which is in close proximity to Antigua and Barbuda.
Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a chronic infection caused by either of two types of bacteria, namely Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis.
The disease can cause damage to various parts of the body including the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes.
One of the most significant effects of leprosy is nerve damage, which can result in a loss of sensation.
This makes it difficult for infected individuals to detect pain, which, in turn, can lead to the loss of extremities due to repeated injuries or unnoticed wounds. In addition to this, muscle weakness and poor eyesight are also common symptoms of the disease.
While some people may experience symptoms of leprosy within a year of infection, it may take 20 years or more for symptoms to appear in others.
Sir Molwyn said at a press conference today that it is critical for governments to remain vigilant and monitor the situation closely to prevent outbreaks of the disease.
“This disease is covered by CARPHA and is covered by the Medical Benefits Scheme since it requires chronic or prolonged treatment. Unfortunately for Antigua and Barbuda, we have the Infectious Disease Center which is the designated medical facility for isolation of infectious disease so if there is a case, we will be isolating these individuals there”, Sir Molwyn explained