Father Damien Wished He Knew: Leprosy Facts

Today's Damien Society Battles The Disease

Today's Damien Society Battles The Disease

 Visit the DAMIEN SOCIETY WEB PAGE: http://www.damientheleper.org/


Q. What is leprosy, or hansen’s disease?  A. It is a chronic disease, mainly affecting the skin and nerves. Untreated, it can permanently damage the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. It is caused by a bacillus, Mycobacterium leprae, which incubates in the human body for two to four years. The microbe was discovered by Norwegian physician Armauer Hansen in 1873.

Q. What are the symptoms? A. Early symptoms include reddish or pale colored skin patches that may have a loss of feeling; bumps and thickening of the skin; loss of feeling of the hands or feet.

Q. Does leprosy make fingers and toes fall off? A. No. The bacillus attacks nerve endings and destroys the body’s ability to feel pain and injury. Without feeling pain, people can easily injure themselves. Injuries become infected and result in tissue loss. Fingers and toes become shortened and deformed as the bone is absorbed into the body.

Q. How is leprosy transmitted? A. The disease is not highly infectious. It is believed that M. leprae is transmitted via droplets from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contacts with untreated, infected persons. More than 95 percent of the population has a natural immunity to the disease. People having completed treatment are considered free of active infection.

Q. How is it treated? A. Leprosy is curable, and treatment during the early stages averts disability. A multi-drug therapy – consisting of three drugs (dapsone, rifampicin and clofazimine) – kills the pathogen. Relapses are rare for patients in the United States who receive multi-drug therapy, which can take six months to two years.

Q. How many people have leprosy? A. In 2000, 738,284 cases of leprosy were identified worldwide; 91 in the United States. Between 1 million and 2 million people are believed permanently disabled by the disease. Ten countries account for 90 percent of cases: Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo,Guinea, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal and Tanzania.

Courtesy of CBS: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/03/22/health/main545392.shtml


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