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5 Things you didn’t know about leprosy

Rita sits with Nursing Superintendent Mahima Bantawa

1. Most of the world is immune to leprosy

Around 95% of the world’s population is immune to leprosy. In order for leprosy to affect you, you need to have a very low immune system, which is caused by poor nutrition and sanitation. Essentially, if you aren’t able to eat enough food and if you live somewhere that is very unclean, with no adequate sewage system, your immune system will be weak and you are more prone to diseases, including leprosy.

2. It is quite hard to catch leprosy

There is a lot of fear that surrounds leprosy, but there shouldn’t be. You are only likely to catch leprosy if you have a very low immune system and if you spend a long time over a period of weeks in a small space with someone who has leprosy but hasn’t yet been treated for it. If a person takes the tablets that tackle leprosy, they will stop being infectious after 72 hours and it won’t be possible to catch leprosy from them. Lots of families and communities shun people affected by leprosy and there is absolutely no need to do so.

3. Leprosy is curable and treatment is free

Patients who are diagnosed with leprosy will be prescribed MDT (Multi-Drug Therapy). If they take the pills then they will be cured of leprosy. Since 1995, the World Health Organization has supplied MDT free of cost to leprosy patients in all endemic countries. This means that the goal of organisations like The Leprosy Mission is to find everyone who has leprosy and get them the right medication. Doing that will end the spread of leprosy.

4. The first sign of leprosy is a small patch of lighter skin

The first sign of leprosy is often a patch of skin that is lighter in colour than the surrounding skin. There are a lot of skin conditions that can change the colour of your skin, but if you lose the feeling on a piece of skin, that could be an indication that it is leprosy. If you think you have lost feeling in a piece of your skin, you can test this by closing your eyes and asking a friend to lightly touch the skin with a pencil – if you can’t tell where they are touching, make sure you go to see a doctor.

5. Leprosy is the oldest disease known to man, but we will be the generation that beats it

We believe that, by 2035, we will have diagnosed the last ever case of leprosy. We know exactly how we can do this and, by working in partnership with other organisations and governments, we will reach our goal of ending the spread of leprosy by 2035.

If you would like to know more about leprosy, take a look here

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