Leprosy Dark Spot Healed by Early Detection

It started with a small, dark spot on Oeur Pisey’s left arm: A spot that he simply ignored. Slowly, other spots appeared. They soon covered Mr. Pisey’s thighs, upper body, and eventually, his face. A local health clinic in Kompong Cham province told him not to worry: the spots were due to a simple allergy, he was told. … The discovery that he was in the early stages of leprosy was a coincidence, Mr. Pisey said during an interview at the Kien Khleang National Leprosy Rehabilitation Center in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district. … Nine months ago, he started to receive treatment for leprosy. In just a few weeks, his leprosy will be cured, without bearing the disabilities the infectious bacteria can cause. … Early detection of the disease is easy and so is treatment, particularly in the early stages, said Harald Schmid de Gruneck, head of mission of the Order of Malta’s International Committee, which funds the Kien Khleang center. … Because people often ignore skin lesions, particularly in poor communities and rural areas, the Order of Malta and the Ministry of Health started a leprosy early-detection campaign in 2011. “We send out a team of experts to revisit old [leprosy] cases to find new cases,” said Chan Sarin, a technical adviser with the National Leprosy Elimination program, explaining that infections can often be found by simply checking the family, friends and neighbors of old patients. … “More than 600 people were diagnosed through the contact survey team, and besides six [cases], we found all of them before they had disabilities,” said So Visal, a public health officer with the Order of Malta. …

Denise Hruby