Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is a curable infectious disease that mainly affects the skin, peripheral nerves, upper respiratory tract and the eyes. It can occur from early infancy to old age. Even today there are people who suffer from discrimination because they have or once had leprosy. By learning about leprosy and sharing with friends and family that it is a curable Illness, you can help create a world free from medical and social problems related to this age-old disease.
INFECTIOUS DISEASE SURVEILLANCE CENTER (IDSC), JAPAN
- Leprosy results from infection with Mycobacterium leprae. The M.leprae bacillus was discovered by a Norwegian doctor, G.A. Hansen in 1873.
- It is transmitted through the air via droplets from the nose and mouth during close and frequent contact with untreated individuals.
- 95% of people have sufficient natural immunity and will not develop leprosy if exposed.
- Not hereditary.
- Not a curse nor a divine punishment.
A pictorial manual to assist frontline health workers and volunteers in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of leprosy published by Sasakawa Health Foundation
- The first outward sign of leprosy is the appearance of numb, discolored patches on the skin.
- Enlarged nerves can also be a sign of the disease.
- If leprosy progresses unchecked, it leads to loss of sensation in the limbs, paralyzed muscles, ulcers, injuries and secondary infections.
Multidrug therapy is provided
in calendar blister packs
- Leprosy is treated with Multidrug Therapy (MDT); an orally administered regimen of three drugs— rifampicin, dapsone, and clofazimine— taken for 6 to 12 months.
- MDT is provided free of charge throughout the world via WHO.
- After the first dose of MDT, a patient is no longer infectious.
Diagnosis by a health coordinator
for the state health department’s leprosy program,
Mato Grosso, Brazil, 2015
- There is no WHO-recommended vaccine for leprosy, but research is under way.
- WHO guidelines recommend the use of single-dose rifampicin as a preventive treatment for adults and children (aged above 2 years) who are in regular contact with leprosy cases.
- BCG vaccination has been shown to reduce the risk of leprosy.
Elimination of Leprosy
- WHO defines “elimination of leprosy as a public health problem” as a condition in which the prevalence rate is below one case per 10,000 population.
- All countries have achieved elimination at the national level with the exception of Brazil and some small island states.
- But in a number of countries, endemic hotspots of leprosy remain at the subnational level.
Discrimination Takes Many Forms
Principles and Guidelines