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Leprosy

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Leprosy, also called Hansen’s disease, is a bacterial disease that affects mainly the skin and nerves. The symptoms are very serious if not treated correctly. Although anyone can get it, some people are more likely to get it than others. No one is totally sure how it is transmitted but the most cases are from long exposures to it, such as having a family member have it. Though the actual disease doesn’t kill many people, deaths are attributed to the infections caused by the disease.

The symptoms begin to show after three to five years after the person has caught the disease. In tuberculoid leprosy, the mild form of leprosy, an infected person can get a light red rash on the skin, muscle weakness in the hands or feet, skin stiffness and dryness, eye problems, loss of fingers and toes, and enlarged nerves around the knees and elbows. The more severe form of leprosy, Lepromatous, can cause a rash, thinning of the eyebrows and eyelashes, thickened skin on the face, Collapsing of the nose, and scarring of the testes, which leads to infertility.

Though the transmission of Leprosy is unknown. Most cases reported have someone who is often in close proximity to them has leprosy as well. Some doctors believe it is transmitted through the air and broken skin. While most cases are in south east Asia, about 300 cases per year occur in the united states.

Many of the more serious symptoms can be avoided if treated. Antibiotics can treat the disease and the BCG vaccine can prevent it completely. Treatment can last one to two years and yearly check-ups continue for the next ten years.

Leprosy was one of the first diseases people realized was contagious. It was first diagnosed in Europe the 400’s BC. Other than humans, Armadillos are the only other being that can get leprosy.





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