British Leprosy Relief Association
How to improve early case detection in low endemic areas with pockets of leprosy: a study of newly detected leprosy patients in Guizhou Province, People’s Republic of China
aGuizhou Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Guiyang, Guizhou Province, P. R. China
bAmerican Leprosy Missions, 1 ALM Way Greenville, USA
Correspondence to: Jinlan Li, Guizhou provincial center for disease control and prevention, 100# Bageyan Road, Guiyang 550004, P. R. China (e-mail: email@example.com)
Although leprosy in China is controlled at a low endemic level, the number of new cases in Guizhou province has shown no significant decrease over the past 20 years. Guizhou remains the province with the second highest prevalence in China. The authors conducted a study in which the characteristics of newly detected leprosy cases, found between 2008 and 2012 in Guizhou, were analysed. These cases represented people from pocket areas of leprosy in a generally low endemic environment. The purpose of the study was to understand characters of newly detected cases, strong points and weakness of routine detection approaches for improving the effectiveness of early case detection in the future.
The analysis considered data that was collected from a ‘Leprosy Management Information’ report system and also from annual statistical reports of leprosy that reflect the situation throughout the province. 1274 new patients were detected in Guizhou from 2008 to 2012. That number included 58 (4.6%) children (0–14 years old). The average age of patients at diagnosis was 42.6 ± 16.5 years. The proportion of people withWHOGrade 2 disability (WHO DG2) among new patients was 35.7% and the proportion of people with Grade 1 disability (DG1) constituted 10.1%. The average delay before diagnosis after the onset of symptoms of leprosy was 41.7 ± 49.8 months.
Suspect survey was a major method by which most cases were detected. Trough this method 790 (62.0%) new patients were detected. It was also in this group that the highest proportion of people with WHO DG2 359 of 790 (45.4%) was reported. Selfreporting, diagnosis at a general skin clinic, household contact examination, and spot surveys accounted for 13.0%, 11.8%, 11.5% and 1.7% of other cases detected respectively. It was generally found that cases detected through household contact examinations were earlier cases (delay to diagnosis < 24 months = 70.7%). It was also recorded that fewer of these had WHO DG2 (12.9%). The proportion of men with WHO DG2 was higher than that of females (38.2% compared with 28.8%).
The proportion of Han Chinese new cases with WHO DG2 was significantly higher than that of the main minority group (41.5% compared with 29.2%). The proportion of new cases among the main minority group who self-reported (50%) was significantly higher than those detected through other detection approaches.
Detecting leprosy early in low endemic situations where pockets persist was difficult to achieve. The authors suggest that if more early patients are to be detected earlier, the quality of suspect surveys and household contact examination should be improved. Professional training and supervision might affect that result. Greater emphasis should be given to the role of general skin clinics as surveillance sites and advocacy for new health policy that will enhance the detection leprosy should be sustained.