Leprosy is an infectious disease that affects close to 2-3 million people worldwide. The symptoms of this condition are light-coloured patches with affected areas losing the ability to sense touch and pain. If left untreated, the disease can result in the paralysis of the limbs. Here are 10 more facts you should know about leprosy:
You cannot catch it via touch
Leprosy is caused by a bacteria called M.leprae which is primarily transmitted via sneezing and coughing. However, the biggest myth about leprosy is that it is an extremely contagious disease. Even if people are exposed to the bacteria, not everyone will develop the disease. Approximately, 95% of the population cannot catch the disease because their immune system can fight it off.
It is curable
Leprosy is a curable disease. A 12-month treatment called the multi-drug therapy consisting of 2-3 drugs can cure the infection. So, it is an old wife’s tale that once you catch it you will die. However, the treatment cycle should be completed to ensure that the disease does not come back and resolved. In fact, once the treatment starts, the affected person is no longer contagious.
Your limbs do not fall off
It is a misconception that leprosy causes fingers, toes or limbs to fall off. It can cause nerve damage on the face, hands and feet. It means that the person may lose the sensation of touch and temperature. Simple injuries can lead to infection and ulcers which can result in the shortening of digits, not dropping off. If this is not treated, the ability to walk and perform basic tasks becomes compromised.
It affects the lower-economic strata
This is a fact as leprosy majorly affects the poor. This disease affects the destitute living in resource-poor countries who face difficulty in accessing healthcare because of long distances to the hospital and the cost of treatment. Due to these reasons, the affected do not complete the treatment or receive it all despite the WHO’s free program. Moreover, the prevalent stigma against people suffering from leprosy prevents them from seeking help when the symptoms first appear.
Some more facts you should be aware of
- It is not caused by immoral behaviours but by bacteria M. leprae
- Affects people of all ages, not just older people
- Not transmitted through sexual intercourse or pregnancy
- Once treatment begins, the affected person does not need to be isolated
- For centuries leprosy has been linked with abhorrence and it is not OK to call the affected a “leper”
Note: As mentioned, leprosy today can be successfully treated by medications and diet. Leprosy patients can lead normal lives free of ignorant bias, societal isolation, and fear.