BEIJING (AFP) — China sees 1,600 new cases of leprosy each year and greater efforts are needed to completely eradicate the disfiguring disease, state media reported on Friday.
China has made great progress against the disease in recent decades, cutting the number of patients with active leprosy to just 6,300 today from around half a million in 1949, the China Daily quoted the Health Ministry as saying.
But the infectious disease is still present in more remote parts of the country, it quoted Pan Chunzhi, secretary general of the China Leprosy Association as saying.
"Despite the progress made, leprosy has yet to be eradicated and is still a concern in 10 percent of the country, mainly the southwest," said Pan, speaking in Beijing ahead of World Leprosy Day, which falls on Monday.
Leprosy is caused by a bacteria that eats away at skin, nerves and limbs. It remains prevalent worldwide in poorer countries despite the development of successful drug treatments.
As in many countries, China's lepers have historically been banished to so-called leper "colonies".
China now has about 210,000 former carriers of leprosy, about half of whom have suffered disfigurement, the report said.
About 20,000 of those still reside in leper colonies, it added.
The government plans to spend 30 million dollars this year to renovate or relocate 100 of the villages, the paper quoted a ministry disease control official as saying.
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