Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. Humans and armadillos are the only known host of the bacterium. The disease affects the nerves mainly the periphery, skin, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes, if not diagnosed and treated quickly, can result in a condition of disabilities.
Gerhard Henrick Armauer Hansen in 1873 was the first to identify this bacterium as the causal agent of leprosy.
World leprosy day is observed annually across the globe on the last Sunday of January. The day was chosen by French humanitarian Raoul Follereau in 1953, which is the third Sunday from Epiphany from the Catholic calendar. The story of the Gospel where Jesus meets and heals a person with leprosy is being read on this day.
Anti-Leprosy Day is observed every year on 30 January. The day is celebrated in the memory of Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India who understood the importance of leprosy and put his selfless efforts in caring for the people affected by leprosy. The objective of celebrating these days is to spread awareness of the Leprosy or Hansen’s disease.
Leprosy has affected humanity for over 4,000 years and was well-recognized in the civilizations of ancient China, Egypt, and India. DNA taken from the shrouded remains of a man discovered in a tomb next to the Old City of Jerusalem shows to be the earliest human proven to have suffered from leprosy.
Across the globe, leprosy charities and collaborators join hands together to raise awareness of this disease that many people believe to vanish, but the fact is still over 200,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, and may millions of people are living undiagnosed, leaving them at risk of dysfunctional condition.
Repeated contact with nose and mouth droplets from someone with untreated leprosy results in acquiring the disease. Leprosy is curable with multi-drug therapy. The problem with developing countries is that most people cannot afford that much money to continue the treatment and are not aware of the side-effects of discontinuing the medication. Moreover, the marks left by the disease can never be cured like numbness of specific areas of the skin. So, the best way to prevent the spread of leprosy is not to neglect the symptoms but to diagnose and treat it in the early stages.
Be aware and make your surroundings aware!
Article by Moumita Mazumdar