1. Yeah, Leprosy is Still a Thing

Leprosy is typically something you hear about in old biblical stories from 2,000 years ago. Most people are shocked to find it is still an issue today. In fact, it is found in more than 120 countries, with more than 200,000 new cases reported every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

2. Leprosy is also called Hansen’s Disease

While leprosy is more commonly used, it is also referred to as Hansen’s Disease. This alternative name came from the man who discovered the bacteria that causes leprosy, Gerhard Armauer Hansen.

A major advocate for the name change came from The STAR, a newsletter created by a concerned patient with leprosy with the intent to “Spread the Light of Truth on Hansen’s Disease.” This helped more people become aware of the disease. Its goal was to help people be more open about helping those suffering from this disease and to not let bias impact their willingness. So far the name change has helped quite a few people seek and receive help.

3. It Can Easily Be Treated

While leprosy was once a death sentence for many people, in the modern day it can be treated relatively easily. Multi-drug therapy with various antibiotics is able to tame the disease in a high number of cases. This treatment can last anywhere from a few months to a couple of years, though the average case takes about 6-12 months depending on circumstances.

While the treatment is able to kill the bacteria that cause leprosy, they unfortunately cannot reverse any nerve damage caused by the disease.

4. Leprosy Cannot Be Spread by Shaking Someone’s Hand

There is a very strong belief that you can get leprosy just by sitting next to someone who has it. Or, if someone’s parents have leprosy, then their children will also have the disease. This is very misleading. Scientists believe that many months of close contact with someone who has untreated leprosy can possibly lead to infection. In other words, you won’t get Hansen’s disease by hugging, sitting, or having casual contact with someone who is infected. In fact…

5. 95% of People Already Have a Natural Immunity to Leprosy

Surprising, right? The majority of people already have a developed immunity to leprosy, despite never coming into contact with an infected individual. So you could spend time working with people infected by leprosy in a hospital and have little risk of contracting the disease. While there isn’t yet a scientific consensus on the source of the immunity, simple genetics may be to thank.

6. That Remaining 5% Still Represents a LOT of People, Though

You may be thinking, “If so many people are immune to it, then why is it still around?” Well, in a world with 8 billion people, this still leaves 400,000,000 who are susceptible to the disease. Additionally, many of these people still lack adequate medical and hygienic care, not to mention live in high-density populations. This leads to a higher risk of contracting the disease.

7. People Diagnosed with Leprosy are Often Treated as Outcasts

This part of the biblical stories still rings true. People who have leprosy are often thrown out of their communities because of fear of infection. They have difficulty securing employment, accessing education, and finding acceptance in their communities. Sadly, their families sometimes either disown them or are thrown out of the community themselves if they refuse to abandon their loved one affected by leprosy.

8. Those Infected Often Don’t Go Looking for Help

Because of the above, many people with leprosy don’t go looking for help and treatment because they are fearful of the stigma that comes once their community finds out. They might also not even have the option, as treatment is difficult to find or simply isn’t available where they live.

Better education is needed to change the misleading image of leprosy from a highly contagious disease that rots flesh and causes fingers to fall off to the accurate one of an easily curable disease with a low risk of transmission.

9. There are Many Groups Working to Help

Thousands of people working with many wonderful groups are working tirelessly to help the people who have been infected by this difficult disease. Treatments are generally becoming more accessible and affordable, and leagues of concerned individuals around the world are working to provide other kinds of support.

Rising Star Outreach focuses on providing medical care, empowering leprosy-affected communities, and making educational opportunities more accessible for the children living in those communities who are often marginalized from their societies. This allows these families a new chance at life and opportunities that often aren’t available any other way (read Farhan’s story for an example of this!).

10. And You Can Help Too!

The great news is that even a small effort by people on the other side of the world can lead to enormous changes and blessings for those with leprosy. Want to know more? Here’s a great article about 10 Things You Can Do To Help Those With Leprosy (link to 10 Things You Can Do article).

One of the best ways to help these families is to sponsor a student through Rising Star Outreach. Just $30 a month will provide education for the children living in leprosy colonies, children who don’t have the disease themselves but are often affected by the disease’s stigma. An education can radically impact the situation of their families for the better by opening doors that never would have been dreamed of before.

 

Resources:

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/leprosy

https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/leprosy/fact_sheet.htm

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/leprosy

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/23043-leprosy-hansens-disease

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/biology-fields/leprosy.htm

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/leprosy

https://www.cdc.gov/leprosy/transmission/index.html

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