Shwe Zin Thai, 28, sits with her children in her village Thaung Tha in Myanmar. She found patches on her arm and showed them to a midwife, who diagnosed her with leprosy. The markings on Shwe Zin Thai and her children’s faces are cosmetic, from a paste made with tree bark to protect and beautify the skin.
Shwe Zin Thai was relieved to see the leprosy post-exposure prophylaxis (LPEP) program in her town as she was afraid that she would make her friends and family sick.
LPEP works by screening the family and neighbors of newly diagnosed leprosy patients and referring them for either multidrug therapy (if showing leprosy symptoms) or a post-exposure prophylaxis (single dose rifampicin). This single dose can reduce the risk of developing leprosy by 50-60%.
This active contact tracing of newly diagnosed patients is a targeted strategy to reduce transmission of leprosy and to accelerate diagnosis and prompt treatment among those most at risk.
More than 200,000 new leprosy patients are still diagnosed every year. Since 1981, more than 16 million leprosy patients have been treated, reducing the global burden by 99%.