For a long time, it was believed that leprosy causes your limbs to fall off. Fortunately, science has made enough progress to do away with such strange misconceptions. On this World Leprosy Eradication Day i.e. on the 31st January of 2021, let’s delve into a few facts about this wrongly notorious disease.
- World Leprosy Eradication Day is observed on the last Sunday of January every year.
This day was chosen by the French Humanitarian Raoul Follereau to coincide with Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary.
- It is also known as Hansen’s Disease.
The causative bacterium behind leprosy, i.e. Mycobacterium leprae was discovered by the Norwegian scientist Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen, hence the disease is now named after him.
- There are 2 types of leprosy.
Based on the clinical manifestations and skin smear results, the types are- multibacillary and paucibacillary.
- It is one of the most stigmatized diseases on a global scale.
Patients with leprosy-related disabilities are often denied basic human rights, discriminated against, and even shunned from the society.
- It’s curable.
Even though leprosy has been associated with a significant stigma in the past century, it is now completely curable on early detection, thanks to the advancements in science. It can be treated easily with antibiotics, though the treatment is a lengthy one and can last up to 2 years. However, on the plus side, the bacteria is rendered harmless after a couple of days of antibiotic treatment, making the patient non contagious.
- It may take up to several years to show any symptoms.
On the off chance that one isn’t immune, it may be a couple of years till any symptoms of infection are seen.
- You’re most likely immune to it!
It is true that leprosy is a contagious disease that spreads through droplets. However, approximately 95% of adults are immune to it. Count yourself lucky if you are one of them!
- Armadillos can spread the disease!
It has been observed in some states in the US that the armored mammals can carry the bacteria and spread the disease. Better not pet them!
- Leprosy does not cause your fingers and toes to fall off!
Contrary to the erstwhile popular belief, the fact remains that M. leprae is known to attack the nerves of the digits, causing them to become numb. However, in the advanced stages of untreated disease, secondary infections/cuts may lead to permanent damage and reabsorption of the limbs.
- WHO has an answer.
WHO recommends a set of antibiotics to tackle the disease under a treatment regime called Multi Drug Therapy regimen, which includes drugs like Dapsone, Rifampicin, and Clofazimine. The dosage depends on the type and spread of the disease in the individual. In case of a globally found disease like this one, WHO you do call.
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, a strong supporter of the Leprosy eradication movement, “Eliminating leprosy is the only work I have not been able to complete in my lifetime” In his remembrance, let us vouch for kindness and empathy towards those afflicted with not just the disease, but also the ridicule of its society. Let’s all join hands in eradicating leprosy and the stigma around it.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , C.D.C.: World Leprosy Day: Bust the Myths, Learn the Facts. [Online]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/features/world-leprosy-day/index.html [Accessed 21 January 2021].
2. World health organization, W.H.O. Classification of leprosy. [Online]. Available from: https://www.who.int/lep/classification/en/ [Accessed 21 January 2021].
3. World health organization, W.H.O. WHO recommended MDT regimens. [Online]. Available from: https://www.who.int/lep/mdt/regimens/en/ [Accessed 21 January 2021].
4. Hateley-Browne. A : The Christ-like compassion of Mahatma Gandhi. [Online]. Available from: https://www.leprosymission.org.au/2016/01/the-christ-like-compassion-of-mahatma-gandhi/ [Accessed 21 January 2021].