Reversal of Budget Cuts Will Keep Hansen’s Disease Clinics in Operation

According to a story from azcentral.com, the Trump administration has decided to roll back some budget cuts that put the continued existence of regional Hansen’s disease clinics in jeopardy around the country. Initially, the agency responsible for the Hansen’s disease program has only enough funding for six of the original 17 clinics that were in operation. 11 clinics were at risk of closing entirely, but the new funding will support eight more clinics.
Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, is a long term infection that is caused by bacteria of the genus Mycobacterium. Generally, the bacteria can remain the body for up to 20 years before any symptoms appear. Once they do, they consist of pink skin lesions that are insensitive to pain or temperature, loss of sensation in the hands and feet, and secondary infections that cause disfiguring tissue loss; the fingers and toes to become deformed as cartilage gets absorbed into the body. Some patients may experience weakness and poor eyesight. Leprosy is a disease with a long history in human cultures. People with the disease were commonly considered to be extremely contagious, and were often isolated in colonies away from the rest of society; some still exist today. However, the disease is no more contagious than other similar illnesses, and can be cured with multidrug therapy. To learn more about Hansen’s disease, click here.

While Hansen’s disease is definitely rare in the U.S., the regional clinics are a critical resource for patients, and it is projected that these clinics treat a total of 6,500 patients per year. Only about 100 to 150 new cases appear every year in the country. These specialty clinics are considered essential because the vast majority of doctors do not have any firsthand experience treating Hansen’s disease.

A clinic is Maricopa county, in Arizona, was going to discontinue thanks to the budget cuts, but a team of dedicated volunteers kept the operation alive in a space located at the Wesley Health Center. Dr. Ronald Pust, who has overseen the clinic for decades, was relieved by the news of new funding coming in. Clinics are expected to submit a funding proposal by May 29th.

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