According to health department data, Mumbai has seen a surge in leprosy cases during the Covid-19 outbreak, with 626 instances in 2022–2023—an increase of 87% from 2021–2022 when it reported 335 cases.

Leprosy increase rate

Leprosy cases were recorded in the city in 474 instances in 2018–19; 453 cases were reported in 2019–20. Due to less screening, it further decreased to 166 during the Covid-19 pandemic. But as screening expanded, the number of cases grew to 335 in 2021–22.There were 626 newly identified patients in 2022–2023 despite inadequate screening, the most since 627 cases were reported in 2013–2014.

But the proportion of people with advanced disease is growing, which worries health professionals.Incredibly, 77% of cases in 2022–2023 were found to be in the advanced stage of Multibacillary (MB).

The bacteria Mycobacterium leprae is the source of the chronic infectious illness leprosy. Leprosy, a disease that predominantly affects the nerves, causes loss of sensation in the hands, feet, and face, among other affected areas. Injuries or wounds may go undiagnosed as a result, which may result in subsequent infections or even permanent impairments. Leprosy is a disease that progresses slowly and might take years to show symptoms.

Over the past ten years, there has been a decline in the number of new cases, but the current increase in late detections has raised questions. whereas there were 1,070 new instances of leprosy in 2007–2008, 49.35% of those patients had multibacillary leprosy, whereas in 2022–23, even though there were fewer new cases,A larger number of patients had the disease in an advanced stage.

The high percentage of multibacillary cases, according to Dr. Manish Renghe, assistant director of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), is cause for alarm. White patches are among the early warning signs that are commonly disregarded by people. By the time many cases are found by routine surveillance, the sickness may already have harmed the nervous system and caused abnormalities.

Even as a spike in instances among children is observed, health authorities are stepping up their efforts to inform the public about the need of obtaining medical assistance at the first signs of the condition.In Mumbai, there were 58 incidents involving children in the years 2017–18; 47 incidents occurred in 2018–19; 38 incidents occurred in 2019–20; seven incidents occurred in 2020–21; and 22 incidents occurred in 2021–22. In 2022–2023, 48 children were diagnosed with the condition, therefore it has risen once more.


According to medical professionals, migration is a serious obstacle in the fight against leprosy in Mumbai. “People from different states move to the city in quest of employment; some of them already have the illness. However, because of poor screening and limited awareness, these instances frequently go unnoticed,based on Dr. Vivek Pai, the Bombay Leprosy Project’s director.

National Strategic Plan and Roadmap

According to a written statement of the National Strategic Plan and Roadmap for Leprosy 2023–2027 from Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, India still accounts for over half (52%) of new leprosy cases worldwide after being declared “Leprosy Eliminated” in 2005. Skin, nerves, lungs, and eyes are all impacted by the chronic bacterial infection known as leprosy.

Health experts have noticed that COVID-19 saw a rapid fall in the number of cases detected, which caused prior successes in the disease program to be undone. Physical handicap can be avoided if the affected person’s infection is discovered early.


In comparison to the year prior to the COVID pandemic, 2019–20, case detection decreased by 43% in 2020–2021 and by 34% in 2021–2022 as a result of the pandemic.”In 2020–2021, the annual case detection rate fell from 8.13 cases per lakh persons to 4.56 cases, a reduction of half. According to the strategy document, 5.52 cases per lakh were settled in 2021–22.


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