Today is World Leprosy Day and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is reflecting on the progress made and reaffirms its commitment to supporting patients with leprosy in Solomon Islands.
Leprosy is, by definition, eliminated in Solomon Islands. WHO defines this as a prevalence rate of less than one case per 10,000 people.
A statement from the Ministry of Health and Medical Services said 39 people have been treated for leprosy in Solomon Islands and together with WHO, they have been closely monitoring these cases.
It said because of their treatment, they are no longer contagious.
Leprosy is a chronic disease caused by bacteria which mainly affects the skin and nerves, but it is not a highly infectious disease.
It is transmitted via droplets from the nose and mouth during close and frequent contact with people with untreated leprosy.
The bacteria multiply very slowly.
Meanwhile, the statement said the time from exposure to developing the disease is about five years and symptoms can take as long as 20 years to appear.
It says although its diagnosis and treatment is easy, being left untreated leprosy can lead to progressive and permanent nerve damage, resulting in the loss of sensation and extreme sweating as well as paralysis of muscles in the hands, feet and face.
WHO Representative to Solomon Islands, Dr Audrey Aumua said early diagnosis and treatment with multi-drug therapy (MDT) remain the key elements in eliminating the disease as far as public health is a concern.
She said MDT treatment has been made available by WHO free of charge to all patients worldwide since 1995 and provides a simple yet highly effective cure for all types of leprosy.
The statement adds a new environment, in which patients will not hesitate to come forward for diagnosis and treatment at any health facility must be created.
Sustained and committed efforts by the Solomon Islands government, along with the continued support from partners, have led to a decline in the burden of leprosy.
Increased empowerment of people affected by the disease, together with their greater involvement in services and community, will bring Solomon Islands closer to a nation without leprosy.