Leprosy(Hansen's Disease)
Travel Health

From: Travel Health Information and Advice

Leprosy (Hansen's Disease)
Leprosy is a chronic disease caused by the Mycobacterium leprae and is also known as Hansen's disease after Dr. G.H.A Hansen who discovered the bacteria in 1873.

There are two main types of leprosy:

Symptoms of Leprosy
The infection has a long incubation period which is usually around 3 to 5 years before any symptoms start to show. Leprosy largely affects the skin, mucous membranes, eyes, hands, feet, testes and peripheral nerves, if left untreated it can cause severe disfigurement and permanent disability. Symptoms can include:

Areas Affected With Leprosy
Areas affected with Leprosy include Madagascar, Mozambique, Angola, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, India, Nepal and Brazil.

Preventing Leprosy
There is no vaccine against leprosy at present, however, many people have natural immunity. The disease is often transmitted through close contact with airborne respiratory droplets from the mouth or nose of someone who is infected, however not all cases of leprosy are infectious and much about the spread of the disease still remains unclear.

Diagnosing Leprosy
Diagnosing the disease can be achieved either through clinical signs of the disease and general symptoms or through a skin smear.

Treatment for Leprosy
Prompt treatment is essential to help prevent permanent damage from occurring, if you have been to an endemic area or come into close contact with someone who has leprosy and you develop a rash then seek medical attention, bear in mind that symptoms can take a while to show themselves.

The use of multi drug therapy is used to treat the disease and early treatment can help prevent long term permanent damage and is usually successful. Once treatment begins the patient soon no longer be infectious to others.