Hasn't leprosy been cured?
Most people think leprosy is a disease of the past. But the still exists, claiming several hundred thousand new victims around the world each year.
The disease is still common in dozens of poor countries around the world, but more than 90% of the cases today are in India, Brazil, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Myanmar (Burma), Mozambique, Congo, Nepal, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Sudan, Philippines, Guinea, Niger and Cambodia.
While rarely seen in North America today, it is still seen in large international cities on this continent. Vancouver is one such city, and we at the Achilles Foot Health Centre have seen and had cause to treat the disease, even today. In each case we have seen, the patient we treated was from, or had had an extended stay, in one of the countries named above.
What exactly is leprosy?
Leprosy is an infectious disease--a chronic bacterial disease that develops primarily in the skin and the nerves in the hand and feet. (The bacteria prefer the cooler parts of the body.)
How do you get it?
Most cases of leprosy develop from germs that exit the nose of the patient with leprosy, and enter the body of the newly-infected individual, also through the nose.
What does it look like?
Typical cases involve discoloured lesions on the skin of the hands and feet. The involved areas are usually numb.
How quickly does it develop?
It's typically a slow-developing condition. Symptoms may develop within a few months of exposure, but it may take decades. Most patients develop their first symptoms several years after exposure.
How is it cured?
Leprosy can be cured by taking a combination of medications known as MDT, or Multiple drug therapy. These drugs are rifampicine (RimactaneŽ), clofazimine (LampreneŽ) and dapsone.