The Ministry of Health says it has increased surveillance for Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy) throughout St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The ministry further said on Tuesday that it is closely monitoring the situation in neighbouring countries, which have recorded cases of the disease.
SVG has recorded only one case of leprosy since 2018.
The case was detected in 2019 and was successfully managed. The person is living a normal life, the ministry said, in a statement.
“St Vincent and the Grenadines has not seen any new cases of leprosy for the period 2022 – January 15th 2024,” the ministry of health stated, emphasising that one case was detected in 2019.
Leprosy is an infection caused by a slow-growing bacteria. The leprosy bacteria can be spread when a person with leprosy coughs or sneezes, and someone else breathes in the droplets containing the bacteria repeatedly (over a prolonged period of time).
Leprosy can affect the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose (nasal mucosa).
“With early diagnosis and treatment, the disease can be cured. It’s important to note that people with leprosy disease can continue to work and live an active life during and after treatment,” the Ministry of Health said.
“While Leprosy was once feared to be a highly contagious and devastating disease, the Ministry would like to reassure the public that leprosy does not spread easily and treatment is very effective.
“However, if left untreated, the nerve damage associated with leprosy can result in deformities of hands and feet, paralysis, and blindness,” the ministry further stated.
“The Ministry takes this time to encourage Vincentians to continue to take all the usual precautionary measures against respiratory infections such as covering mouths and nostrils when coughing and washing hands frequently.”