For many – leprosy is nothing but an antiquated disease from biblical times with no present-day relevance.
But in fact, nearly 150 to 250 people in the United States and 250,000 around the world contract the disease yearly.
So ahead of World Leprosy Day on Sunday, January 28th – here are some things you should know.
Leprosy these days is known as Hansen’s disease – and it is an infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. These bacteria grow very slowly and it may take up to 20 years to develop signs of the infection.
The disease can affect the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose. The bacteria attack the nerves, which can become swollen under the skin. This can cause the affected areas to lose the ability to sense touch and pain, which can lead to injuries, like cuts and burns.
In very advanced cases, the diagnosed individuals may have multiple injuries due to lack of sensation, and eventually the body may reabsorb the affected digits over time, resulting in the apparent loss of toes and fingers.
The social stigma of Hansen’s/leprosy plays a big factor in how this disease is perceived.
For example, many assume Hansen’s disease is very contagious (hence the history of ostracism) but in fact, the disease is very hard hard to catch. 95% of adults cannot catch it because their immune system can fight off the bacteria that causes it.
Furthermore, historical leprosy is not the same as modern leprosy. The “leprosy” found in historical and religious texts (such as the Bible) describes a variety of skin conditions from rashes and patchy skin to swelling. They were noted to be very contagious, which is not true for Hansen’s disease and also did not have some of the most obvious signs of Hansen’s disease, like disfigurement, blindness, and loss of pain sensation.
And while many think leprosy is a death sentence – it isn’t. It treatable and curable!
So, in honor of World Leprosy Day, here are some ways to promote awareness, according to the UK nonprofit Lepra.
Take the pledge
Print off the #BeatLeprosy banner, take a selfie with it and then post it on any chosen social media channels using the #BeatLeprosy and #WorldLeprosyDay2018 hashtags.
Download the banner here.
Check out the twitter, Facebook, and Instagram graphics.
You can also show your support by temporarily changing your profile picture to the “Twibbon”:
Click here to find out how to do it.
Have a conversation with friends and colleagues about Hansen’s
Take World Leprosy Day as an opportunity to tell your friends and family about leprosy and all the advocacy efforts. Read about the lives Lepra has changed here. By simply having a conversation, you’ll be making a big difference.