Leprosy, a chronic infectious disease once considered the most debilitating disease, has been detected to be caused by a slow-growing bacterium called Mycobacterium leprae. The microbe has been identified and is effectively combated by a carefully treated, multi-drug regimen. However, this disease can still be devastating and cause permanent physical deformities if left untreated. The lack of knowledge about the disease has led to the development of multiple myths about leprosy.
Leprosy is associated with significant stigma and societal prejudice due to several myths. Come on, let’s bust some leprosy myths and share the facts about leprosy.
Myth: Leprosy is hereditary.
Fact: This disease is not transmitted genetically.
Myth: Leprosy is contagious and spread by shaking hands, shaking hands or sitting next to each other.
Fact: This disease is transmitted through nasal and oral secretions during close and frequent contact with untreated patients.
Myth: Babies born to mothers with leprosy will also contract the disease.
Fact: It does not spread transplacentally.
Myth: Leprosy is a sexually transmitted disease.
Fact: It is not transmitted through sexual contact.
What are the challenges of early diagnosis of leprosy?
Leprosy is caused by a slow-growing bacterium. It reproduces very slowly. The incubation lasts about 5 years and the symptoms of leprosy begin to appear after one year. But it could last for years. The stigma and discrimination associated with leprosy cause people to hide the disease and delay its detection. Knowledge of leprosy is therefore the need of the hour.
How to detect leprosy early?
Leprosy mainly affects the skin and nerves. Skin manifestation is one of the first symptoms of leprosy. Any discolored spots with diminished or absent sensation should be checked to be ruled out. The disease is diagnosed by skin or nerve biopsy.
Tips to prevent the transmission of leprosy
1. Individuals with risk factors such as old age and immunosuppression/immune deficiency should be screened for any specific skin manifestations with altered sensation.
2. Early detection should be managed through accurate diagnosis, prompt contact tracing and comprehensive treatment.
3. Social stigma that leads to discrimination against people affected by leprosy should be tackled through awareness raising initiatives. Public education should be made available through posters, flyers at workplaces, educational institutions, etc. School children should be informed of the facts about leprosy that it is completely curable and that one should consult a doctor without delay.
4. People with leprosy are contagious if left untreated. So, motivate those who are engaged in the treatment to complete it.
5. Policies to revise discriminatory laws, especially those that include leprosy as grounds for divorce.
The last word
A well-structured social support system to rehabilitate people affected by leprosy to reintegrate into society and lead normal lives is one of the most important measures to eliminate stigma, reassure the individual and reform society. Developing countries like India need to implement strategies to limit transmission.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides detailed information on symptoms, transmission, diagnosis, and treatment, while the World Health Organization is constantly working to promote advocacy and cooperation for the disease. eradication of leprosy.
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