Most people view leprosy as a disease that is not found in the United States, we wanted to share this article from kwbu.org last week that talks about its existence in our own country. You will notice that the stigma we see in India is still felt right here at home.
Original Article HERE
By JOY DIAZ
Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 11:53 am
Debbie Mata is one of the few leprosy nurses in the country.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT
For thousands of years, people have had an image of what life with leprosy is like. You might think it’s been eradicated, but leprosy — now referred to as Hansen’s disease — still affects hundreds of people in the U.S. every year. Many of those victims are in Texas but, with treatment, a life with leprosy is no longer a death sentence.
|Leprosy causes numbness. That’s its signature. One of the ways Debbie Mata determines how much damage the bacteria has caused is by running the fine fibers she’s holding on the patient’s arms, legs, fingers and toes.Filipa Rodrigues for KUT|
The disease causes disfiguring sores and nerve damage. While there’s no vaccine, 95 percent of people worldwide are naturally immune to the bacteria. For the rest, there’s treatment.
Linda Brown is a nurse consultant overseeing the four state clinics in Texas treating patients with leprosy. She treated her first patient with leprosy in 1968, and says patients most often associate the disease with its biblical connotations.
“I, all the time, have had patients say to me ‘What have I done that is so bad that God is punishing me by giving me leprosy?'” says Brown.
|As Debbie Mata examines her new patient, she notices he has lost all feeling in some of his toes. She urges him to start wearing white socks. If he gets hurt and bleeds he won’t feel it, but the blood will alert him. Filipa Rodrigues for KUT|
While the history of leprosy in Texas doesn’t stretch back to Leviticus, the disease is nothing new here.
Texas has the second highest number of leprosy cases in the U.S., behind California, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s most recent data. Texas accounted for 26 of 213 new cases in 2009. The agency calls Texas’ relatively high numbers historically normal because, strangely enough, of one of the state’s most iconic and prolific animals: armadillos. The disease has been carried by the nine-banded Armadillo since the 18th century.
Scientists haven’t been able to determine why some armadillos carry the leprosy bacteria. They also don’t know if the armadillos transmit the bacteria to humans or if the bacteria is in the soil and both humans and armadillos get infected.
Treatment, however, has advanced. A mix of antibiotics for one or two years will cure most of the cases in Texas every year. But, because of the disease’s infrequent occurrence, many doctors don’t know the symptoms and often miss it entirely.