Did you know that?
• Leprosy still exists today
• Every 3 minutes someone is diagnosed with leprosy
• Every day 50 children are diagnosed with leprosy
• At least 2 million people have disabilities linked to leprosy
Leprosy, a stigmatizing and disfiguring disease, is still a major health problem and a human right issue.
What causes leprosy?
A bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. It causes an infection that affects the skin, destroys nerves and can also cause problems in the eyes and nose.
What are the signs of leprosy?
Early signs include spots on the skin that may be slightly red, darker or lighter than normal skin. The spots also become numb. Often they appear on the arms, legs or back. Sometimes the only sign may be numbness in a finger or toe. If left untreated, hands can become numb and small muscles are paralyzed, leading to curling of the fingers and thumb. When leprosy attacks nerves in the legs, it interrupts communication of sensation in the feet. The feet can then be damaged by untended wounds and infection. If the facial nerve is affected, a person loses the blinking reflex of the eye which can eventually lead to dryness, ulceration, and blindness. Untreated, leprosy can cause deformity, crippling, and blindness.
How do you catch leprosy?
M. leprae is transmitted primarily through coughing and sneezing. In most cases, it is through long-term contact with a person who has the disease but has not been treated. Scientists don't fully understand how leprosy is spread.
How is leprosy treated?
Leprosy can be cured with multi-drug therapy (MDT), a combination of three antibiotics:
rifampicin, clofazimine, and dapsone.
Treatment can take from six months to a year, sometimes longer. People are no longer infectious after about one week of MDT.
There is no vaccine against leprosy. Crippling deformities cannot be corrected by MDT. We have to detect new patients at the onset of the disease.
How many people have leprosy?
The fight against leprosy has made significant progress over the last 20 years. More than 14 million people have been cured. However, approximately 200,000 new cases of leprosy are still detected each year. 65% of these new cases suffer from the most contagious form of leprosy. 12,000 people already have disabilities at diagnosis. At least 2 million people suffer from disabling sequelae related to leprosy and still need care.
Eradication of leprosy will always be our main concern, but we are also involved in the fight against the terrible tuberculosis epidemic. In cities, mountains, jungles or slums where we find leprosy, we also see more and more tuberculosis affected individuals. Some of our field programs have expanded to include projects combining the fight against leprosy and tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is a terrible disease that has staged a frightening comeback.
- Tuberculosis is a curable infectious disease, yet it kills more than a million-and-a-half people every year.
- Like the common cold, its spreads through the air. When infectious people cough, they propel TB germs into the air.
- Left untreated, each person with active TB will infect between 10 and 15 people.
- Approximately 10% of people infected with TB become sick at some time during their life.
- The best treatment strategy to cure tuberculosis is DOTS – Direct Observed Treatment Short-course. Daily, health workers observe and record patients swallowing the full course of the correct dosage of anti-TB medicines. DOTS is repeated every single day for 6 to 8 months.
- The DOTS treatment must imperatively be available to all those who need it, including the poorest and most vulnerable.
- Tuberculosis remains a massive global public health problem with nearly 9 million new cases and more than one million-and-a-half deaths every year.