NEW DELHI, India -- With 450 new cases detected every year, India has been unable to contain leprosy, a top health official admitted Thursday.
"This is a cause of concern," M.A. Arif of the Health Ministry was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.
Arif said the number of leprosy cases in India has remained at more than 500,000 for a decade, despite a massive program to curb the spread of the disease.
Worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates the number of people afflicted by the bacterial disease has fallen from 12 million to 1.2 million people in 60 nations.
India began a nationwide anti-leprosy campaign in 1981, identifying patients, encouraging them to go to hospitals and complete treatment programs.
But many new cases are still detected every year in children. In New Delhi, the capital, leprosy cases have increased nine-fold in the last 10 years, Press Trust said.