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close this bookWHO Recommended Surveillance Standards (WHO; 1999; 157 pages)
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentAcronyms
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentNational Coordination of Communicable Disease Surveillance
View the documentExplanatory notes
View the documentSurveillance activities: criteria and WHO Department
View the documentCommunicable disease contacts in Regional Offices
close this folderDiseases
View the documentB20-B21-B22-B23-B24 AIDS
View the documentA22 Anthrax
View the documentA23 Brucellosis
View the documentA00 Cholera
View the documentA81.0 Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
View the documentA90, A91 Dengue fever (A90) including Dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) & Dengue shock syndrome (DSS, A91)
View the documentA36 Diphtheria
View the documentB72 Dracunculiasis (Guinea worm disease)
View the documentA98.3, A98.4 Ebola-Marburg viral diseases
View the documentA83.0 Japanese encephalitis
View the documentB74 Lymphatic filariasis
View the documentB96.3 Haemophilus influenzae type b
View the documentB15-B17 Acute viral hepatitis
View the documentB20-B24 HIV infection
View the documentJ10, J11 Influenza
View the documentA96.2 Lassa fever
View the documentA48.1 Legionellosis
View the documentB55.1, B55.2 Cutaneous leishmaniasis
View the documentLeishmania / HIV co-infections
View the documentB55.0 Visceral leishmaniasis
View the documentA30 Leprosy
View the documentA27 Leptospirosis
View the documentB50-54 Malaria
View the documentB05 Measles
View the documentA39 Meningococcal disease
View the documentA87 Viral meningitis
View the documentB73 Onchocerciasis
View the documentA37.0 Pertussis
View the documentA20 Plague
View the documentA36 Poliomyelitis
View the documentA82 Rabies
View the documentA02.0 Salmonellosis
View the documentB65 Schistosomiasis
View the documentA50-52 Syphilis
View the documentA33 Tetanus, neonatal
View the documentB56-0, B56-1 African trypanosomiasis
View the documentB57 American trypanosomiasis
View the documentA15-A19 Tuberculosis
View the documentA75.3 Scrub typhus
View the documentA95.9 Yellow fever
open this folder and view contentsSyndromes
View the documentAnnex 1 Software free and in the public domain
View the documentAnnex 2 Proposed surveillance definitions
View the documentAnnex 3 Role and use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and mapping for epidemiological surveillance

A30 Leprosy

(Hansen's Disease)


Leprosy continues to affect a large number of people. In 1997 there were an estimated 1.5 million cases in the world. Control of the disease has improved with the introduction of multidrug therapy (MDT). WHO (9GPW6.2) has targeted the disease for elimination (<1 case/10 000 population) by the year 2000, using a focused flexible approach. This includes making multidrug therapy available to all communities and areas, appropriate and good quality diagnosis and treatment, with evaluation through epidemiological surveillance and programme monitoring.


Clinical description

The clinical manifestations of the disease vary in a continuous spectrum between the two polar forms, lepromatous and tuberculoid leprosy:


• In lepromatous (multibacillary) leprosy, nodules, papules, macules and diffuse infiltrations are bilateral symmetrical and usually numerous and extensive; involvement of the nasal mucosa may lead to crusting, obstructed breathing and epistaxis; ocular involvement leads to iritis and keratitis

• In tuberculoid (paucibacillary) leprosy, skin lesions are single or few, sharply demarcated, anaesthesic or hypoaesthesic, and bilateral asymmetrical, involvement of peripheral nerves tends to be severe

• Borderline leprosy has features of both polar forms and is more labile

• Indeterminate leprosy is characterized by hypopigmented maculae with ill-defined borders; if untreated, it may progress to tuberculoid, borderline or lepromatous disease

Laboratory criteria for confirmation

Alcohol-acid-fast bacilli in skin smears (made by the scrape-incision method).

In the paucibacillary form the bacilli may be so few that they are not demonstrable. In view of the increasing prevalence of HIV and hepatitis B infection in many countries where leprosy remains endemic, the number of skin smear sites and the frequency of smear collection should be limited to the minimum necessary.

Case classification

WHO operational definition:

A case of leprosy is defined as a person showing one or more of the following features, and who as yet has to complete a full course of treatment:


• hypopigmented or reddish skin lesions with definite loss of sensation
• involvement of the peripheral nerves, as demonstrated by definite thickening with loss of sensation
• skin smear positive for acid-fast bacilli

Classification (microbiological):


Paucibacillary (PB): includes all smear-negative cases
Multibacillary (MB): includes all smear-positive cases.

Classification (clinical):


Paucibacillary single lesion leprosy: 1 skin lesion.
Paucibacillary leprosy: 2 to 5 patches or lesions on the skin.
Multibacillary leprosy: >5 patches or lesions on the skin.


Individual patient records at peripheral level for investigation and case management.

Routine monthly reporting of aggregated data of all cases from periphery to intermediate level and from intermediate to central level.

International: Quarterly and annual reporting of aggregated data from central level to WHO.


Individual patient records

Unique identifier, name, sex, age, geographical information, disability grade, laboratory examination, disease classification (multi- or paucibacillary, see case definition), date treatment commenced, treatment outcome (disability, cured, dropout), contacts.

Aggregated data for reporting - essential indicators (endemic countries)


• Number of cases registered for treatment at a given time (usually end of year)
• Number of newly detected cases by type of leprosy
• Number of cases treated with multidrug therapy (MDT)
• Number of WHO grade 2 disability* among new cases
• Number of patients cured with MDT
• Number of relapses


* See: WHO technical Reports Series N°g 874, Geneva: World Health Organization, 1988: 31-32

Multidrug treatment (MDT) indicators

(see Special Aspects)

MDT supply indicators:

For MB adult cases, MB child cases, PB adult cases, PB child cases:


• Number of patients under treatment
• Blister pack utilization (%)


Point prevalence, annual detection, MDT coverage, number of patients cured (wherever possible based on cohort reporting), number of cases registered for chemotherapy at the end of the year divided by the population in which the cases have occurred.

Graphs: Prevalence by year, detection by year, number of patients on multidrug therapy (MDT) by year, number of patients cured on MDT by year.

Maps: Number of registered cases, number of new cases, type of treatment, MDT coverage all by geographical area.

Tables: Prevalence, new case detection, percentage of children, percentage of disabled, percentage multibacillary, number cured with MDT.



• Assess the magnitude of the problem
• Identify variations in case detection
• Evaluate the policy of elimination of leprosy
• Plan the distribution of drugs
• Identify technical and operational difficulties faced by the programme
• Identify high risk areas for further targeting intervention
• Evaluate impact of intervention



• Leprosy tends to be underreported. However, there are no reliable cost-effective methods to estimate the real prevalence of the disease accurately

• In endemic countries, essential indicators must be validated through independent mechanisms in order to assess performance of MDT services and progress towards the elimination of the disease at local level


Regional Offices:

See Regional Communicable Disease contacts on section "Communicable disease contacts in Regional Offices".

Headquarters: 20 Avenue Appia, CH-1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland

Eradication and Elimination of Diseases (CEE/CDS)


E-mail: daumeried@who.ch / Surveillancekit@who.ch
Tel: (41 22) 791 3919
Fax: (41 22) 791 4850
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