Health and Child Welfare Minister, David Parirenyatwa, said on Tuesday that cases of leprosy in Zimbabwe have declined significantly from 3,000 in 1983 to 30 in 2005.
Parirenyatwa attributed the dramatic decline to continuous case finding and treatment by the Leprosy Program of his ministry.
He said there was, however, need to maintain vigilance against the disease as some people who were affected remained undiagnosed, untreated and at risk of developing complications.
The minister urged medical personnel throughout the country to develop a high sense of suspicion for leprosy whenever they came across patients with skin diseases.
He advised people who developed skin diseases to seek early medical attention in case these proved to be leprosy, which could be treated if detected in its early stages.
Leprosy is a disabling disease caused by a germ called myco- bacterium leprae and it mainly affects the skin and the nerves.
Symptoms include one or more patches that are lighter than the surrounding skin and that develop on any part of the body, skin patches with no feeling and thickened skin or lumps on the face or ears.
A person can also feel pain, tenderness and thickening of a nerve usually near the joints or have loss of feeling or weakness of fingers or toes.
In the past, it was believed that leprosy was a curse from God or from the ancestral spirits and those who contracted it were quarantined, resulting in the stigma presently attached to the disease.