China to slash leprosy cases by half by 2020

Updated: 2011-10-03 14:18


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BEIJING - China plans to reduce the rate of leprosy cases by 50 percent over the next ten years in a bid to eradicate the infectious disease in the country, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has announced.

The prevalence rate is targeted to be brought down to one case per 10,000 people by 2015, down by 20 percent compared to 2010, and the rate will further shrink to one in every 100,000 people by 2020, down 50 percent from 2010, according to a national leprosy-control plan (2011-2020) published by the MOH.

A total of 500,000 leprosy patients have been reported and given free treatment across the country since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

The number of leprosy cases has plummeted over the past 62 years, but the country still faces challenges fighting the epidemic, the MOH said.

Leprosy, an infectious disease that has affected humanity for over 4,000 years, is primarily characterized by skin lesions and progressive physical debilitation, and can cause permanent nerve damage.

The government has divided the country's 32 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions into three categories in accordance with the situation regarding the epidemic, with the first-grade areas being the most affected by leprosy and the third-grade areas being least affected.