Leprosy, or Hansens disease, is caused by
a bacillus, Mycobacterium leprae. It multiplies very slowly and mainly affects
the skin, nerves, and mucous membranes. This disease continues to be prevalent
in certain underdeveloped countries. In 1998 the WHO listed Bangladesh, Brazil,
India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Nigeria as the countries where the disease is
still endemic. The disease is also problematic in the Western Pacific region.
It is thought that with improved detection in endemic areas and the application
of multi-drug therapy, leprosy could be eradicated worldwide.
is leprosy transmitted?
Although the mode of transmission of Hansen's disease
remains uncertain, it is now believed that M. leprae is usually spread
from person to person in respiratory droplets. The main group of people at risk
from this disease are close contacts of people with untreated multibacillary
disease or people living in countries where the disease is prevalent.
are the symptoms of leprosy?
There are two classifications of Hansens
- Paucibacillary disease is milder and characterised
by a small number of hypopigmented skin macules.
- Multibacillary disease is associated with symmetric
skin lesions, nodules, plaques and thickened dermis. Sometimes nasal congestion
and epistaxis can occur.
is leprosy treated?
Antibiotics are used to treat this condition. Despite
the fact that treatment is available, it is estimated that 1-2 million people
worldwide are permanently disabled from leprosy.
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