Diagnosis of leprosy in a Nigerian migrant: implementation of surveillance measures in the current migration context



Marotta M, Dallolio L, Toni G, Toni F, Leoni E.


Ann Ig. 2020 Jul-Aug;32(4):336-343. doi: 10.7416/ai.2020.2357.


BACKGROUND: In Italy, leprosy diagnosis is reported in immigrants from endemic countries or Italians who have stayed in endemic areas. We report the first leprosy case to be observed in a migrant from Nigeria in the Rimini district (Emilia-Romagna, Northern Italy). METHODS: After describing the tasks of the various health Institutions in the Italian integrated system for diagnosis, treatment, and surveillance of leprosy, we describe the management and outcomes of the leprosy case and of the patient’s contacts. RESULTS: In April 2017, Multibacillary Lepromatose Leprosy was diagnosed in a 29-year-old Nigerian man who arrived in Rimini in July 2014 after a 2-year stay in Libya. The local Public Health Service implemented the epidemiological investigation and identified the patient’s close contacts. The management of the case and the surveillance of the 13 identified contacts, 7 Italians and 6 migrants, highlighted some critical issues. The late diagnosis of the case, due to the lack of knowledge of exotic diseases by general practitioners and other health and social professionals, and the loss at follow up of the close contacts (5 out of 6 migrants), represented important obstacles to the full success of surveillance measures. CONCLUSIONS: Although in Italy there is a well codified system of notification and surveillance of leprosy, the recognising of cases and the tracing and follow up of contacts are made difficult by the particular conditions of the involved people. This represents a new challenge for the Italian Public Health Authorities which, in the current context of immigration, often uncontrolled, must know how to respond to the new needs, in close collaboration with the State Institutions responsible for registering migrants and those health and social professionals who could facilitate the access of foreign people to health services.

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Link/DOI: 10.7416/ai.2020.2357