January 31 is World Leprosy Day. For most people, it’s not exactly a day to celebrate. For nurses, it’s a great reminder of medical advances and inspires us to serve our patients in all situations. Here are the top three things you need to know:
Leprosy Today Is Very Rare
In fact, there were just 63 recorded cases in the US in 2015. However, that number is significantly higher in developing countries. Some estimates range as high as 214,000 new cases in 2014, more than half of which were in India. Although the disease is spread by close contact, it can be quickly diagnosed and treated with antibiotics.
Leprosy Is Slow
The mycobacterium leprae multiplies slowly. The incubation period is about five years, and symptoms can take as long as 20 years to appear. The slow-developing nature of the disease power of antibiotics enabled global elimination of the disease in 2000, meaning the prevalence rate is less than one per 10,000 globally.
Leprosy Has Historical Roots
Known cases of leprosy go back to at least 4000 BC in ancient China, India, and Egypt. It is believed that the disease spread to Europe by the Romans. Individuals with leprosy were commonly outcasts in society, and many people believed the disease was a sign of demonic curses. Unfortunately, many people with leprosy today still suffer from negative stigmas.
Although leprosy has nearly been beaten, it is still a problem that people without access to quality education and healthcare must face.
Sources: https://www.gstatic.com/healthricherkp/pdf/leprosy.pdf, http://www.leprosymission.org.uk/news-and-resources/media-room/leprosy-facts-and-figures.aspx, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs101/en/