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THE MILITARY AND HOSPITALLER
ORDER OF
SAINT LAZARUS OF JERUSALEM
INTERNATIONAL

OUR NEW ZEALAND GRAND PRIORY

Leprosy in the West Pacific Region

How Does Leprosy Relate to the New Zealand Grand Priory?

This is a very easy question to answer. The New Zealand Grand Priory has worked hand-in-hand with the World Health Organization and the Pacific Leprosy Foundation of New Zealand by sending doctors, funds, and by offering workshops regarding leprosy. It is clearly stated, in our report, that one of our activities from 2000-2002 was the continued work with leprosy in South East Asia and the Western Pacific. As proof to this, in the year 2001, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation had a report about leprosy (on Sepember 15, 2001), saying that "the outlook for victims of leprosy in the Pacific region is good according to the World Health Organization and the Pacific Leprosy Foundation of New Zealand. Leprosy attacks the skin and the nerves, has a long incubation period, and can phyically affect the face, hands, and feet." Dr Roland Ferrugia is an expert and spokesman for the Pacific Leprosy Foundation of New Zealand, and the New Zealand Grand Priory has worked with him. Dr. Ferrugia "has been recently monitoring leprosy cases in the Cook Islands and has conducted studies in Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu." Ferrugia says that early diagnosis is most important for the cure. Without early diagnosis, the disease can be more difficult, harmful, and destructive to its victim. If caught early many of the deformities can be stopped before they develop. Another doctor, Peter McArthur, was a part of this radio discussion, in the capacity of student, as Dr. Ferrugia was on radio, to get this information out to as many people as possible, since leprosy is still a big part of the Western Pacific Region (Kiribati Newstar Archives That is why the Mission of the Grand Priory of New Zealand Order is to get that sort of information out to the public, as well as to support various leper hospitals, and recruit medical help for this task, until leprosy is eradiacated in the world. St. Lazarus is the patron of lepers, and activities of the Order of St. Lazarus have always centered around the helping of lepers. The Western Pacific is one of many areas around the world that STILL has leprosy. I have placed current statistics below.

    Current organizations in partnership with the World Health Organization are:

  1. The International Federation of Leprosy Associations
  2. The Nippon Foundation
  3. The Pacific Leprosy Foundation of New Zealand
  4. The Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation
  5. and other lesser known groups
    Special Programmes to Eliminate Leprosy (SAPEL)
    Lepra
    Foundation Damien
    Novartis Foundation

Occurence of Leprosy:

An estimated twelve (12) million people are affected by leprosy in the world. Tropical areas have the highest prevalence; regions of Asia, Latin America, and Oceania are most affected. (See: Zoonotic Disease Research (scroll down to "leprosy."

The New Zealand Grand Priory's Work:

The New Zealand Grand Priory does humanitarian work to help cure leprosy in the Pacific. They donate medical supplies to various island leprosaria. This information can be found in our article on the Zealand Order Activities (2000-2002). Our Priory has tried to heighten the awareness of the needs of the Pacific, in collaboration with the Pacific Leprosy Foundation of New Zealand. In fact, Dr. Roland Ferrugia, a former World Health Organization (W.H.O.) and current consultant to The Pacific Leprosy Foundation of New Zealand, has lectured and conducted clinical sessions with the hospital and public health staff in Auckland and the Southern Commanderies.

The New Zealand Priory has continued, through the years, to send donations to aid the work of the Pacific Leprosy Foundation of New Zealand, and in case you think leprosy is a Biblical disease read Chapter Five of the Report of the Regional director of the W.H.O. This report was dated July 1, 1998 - June 30, 1999 (only three years ago). According to this article, 19,893 reported cases of leprosy existed at the end of 1998, in what is called the Western Pacific Region.

At this time, four (4) countries, and one area in the region, had more than one (1) case of leprosy per 10,000.

    These four countries were:

  1. Guam (a U.S. Possession)
  2. Kiribati (located halfway between New Guinea and the Hawaiian Islands)
  3. The Republic of the Marshall Islands
  4. The Federated States of Micronesia (north of New Guinea)

These four islands have a population of approximately 150,000 inhabitants each, and had three-hundred (300) leprosy cases total.

In contrast, one country with above one (1) case per 10,000 was New Guinea (with 1033 cases), New Guinea's rate of frequency is 2.2 cases of leprosy per 10,000.

    Those countries who have basically eliminated leprosy (with only one (1) case per 10,000 are:

  • China
  • The Philippines
  • Vietnam

There are still some provinces or districts that have a prevalence rate above this target. Thirty-two (32) countries including Cambodia and the Philippines have reached the national elimination target.

The reason for these figures is that the new multidrug therapy, for the curing of leprosy, has shortened the duration of treatment time from five to two years. Teaching the public about leprosy is called "Operation SAPEL." This program was utilized in China, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and Vietnam.

    Pacific countries with high endemicity for leprosy:

  • Cambodia (next to Vietnam)
  • Laos Democratic Republic (north of Thailand)
  • The Philippines
  • Papua New Guinea (the Torres Straits, of Australia, are located approximately 100 miles from Cape York Peninsula, Papua New Guinea.

If we were to travel on a southern path, from Laos to Cambodia, then go east to the Philippines, then southeast to New Guinea, you can see the current patch of leprosy in the Western Pacific. Traveling northeast to the Hawaiian Island, we find Molokai Island, on the easterly side of the Hawaiian Islands, where Father Damien died in 1889 (of leprosy), while working in a leper colony there.

In the 1940's, the drug DDS lessened the spread of leprosy, and in 1959, when Hawaii became part of the United States, their numbers fell drastically. Today the Hawaiian Islands are well below the World Health Organization's control goals. However, there is still a monument there to the work of Father Damien.

New Zealand's own history of leprosy revolved around Otamahua/Quail Island, which is accessible via a ferry from Lyttelton (South Island) near Christ Church, on Pegasus Bay. Quail Island was a former leper colony. Quail Island was named because early settlers noticed a flush of quail there. Quail Island, in 1875, was used as a quarantine area for sixty men from the Rakaia, which made a 81 day voyage from England. During the journey there were 11 deaths onboard. There were 100 cases of mumps, 55 cases of measles and 8 cases of Scarlett Fever. These victims were quarantined for 9 days. Quail Island became a quarantine center from that day on, and later was a leper island.

Statistics provided by the World Health Organization shows 7,735 cases of leprosy in the Western Pacific (point prevalence) and 488,333 cases in South East Asia (point prevalence). In the World this figure is 625404 (point prevalence) and 763,317 cases were detected during the year 2001.

***note these are based on 106 countries who reported these figures.

CLICK HERE For a map showing locations of Leprosy Around the World

    The article on Zoonotic disease (see link above) also states that animals can get leprosy:

  1. armadillos
  2. chimpanzees
  3. Cercocebus monkeys

It is believed that armadillos can transmit the disease to each other, and doctors think that they can contact the disease from humans. In Texas, one man got leprosy by capturing and eating the flesh of an armadillo. Armadillos in Louisiana and Texas (U.S.A.) are known to have the M. leprae variety of leprosy. More research is needed regarding armadillos and non-human primates.

Please read the articles below.

As has been our mission, I hope that these articles will enlighten you in regards to the disease of leprosy, which has survived since 600 B.C.