A CHARITY on a mission to eradicate leprosy fears it is on the rise “at alarming rates”.

Lepra, the leprosy charity based in Colchester, is attending an international congress in the Philippines.

This year will mark the 20th International Leprosy Congress and the first time the Philippines has hosted the event.

Lepra has commissioned active case finding activities to better understand the rising transmission rates of the disease.

Since the introduction of multi drug therapy almost 30 years ago, the prevalence of leprosy has reduced significantly.

However, there has been evidence of an increase in leprosy cases throughout the world.

This is despite the World Health Organisation’s declaration of elimination in 2000.

Geoff Prescott, chief executive of Lepra, has said this conference will help tackle the challenges faced by those affected by leprosy.

He said: “We continue to be concerned by the rising numbers of leprosy cases.

“Over the past number of years, we have commissioned active case finding activities throughout India and have been shocked by the high numbers of leprosy going undetected.

“These new cases are a worrying development and, with our findings, have brought India’s prevalence rate above elimination level.

“In a world where leprosy is curable, it remains a tragedy so many people are living with undiagnosed Leprosy, afraid to get help.”

Lepra works with people in India, Bangladesh and Mozambique to find, diagnose and rehabilitate people.