Caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae, leprosy is a chronic infection that is characterised by symptoms including muscle weakness, skin lesions, a feeling of numbness in arms, feet, legs, and hands. Also known as Hansen’s disease, leprosy causing bacteria multiplies extremely slowly and therefore the infection shows the signs a few years post the onset of the infection. The incubation period of Mycobacterium leprae has been found to be 5 years, on average.
According to the WHO data, leprosy affected 20,8,619 people world-wide in just 2018. The infection damages the nerves in the body, primarily those present in the lining of the nose, upper respiratory tract, and skin. If left untreated or if the treatment is delayed, it can cause severe disfigurement and significant disability. Regardless of the high prevalence of leprosy globally, there are a few myths and misconceptions surrounding it. Today, we burst some of them for you.
Myth 1: Leprosy is not a problem any longer.
Fact: Every year, a significant number of people get affected by leprosy. The misconceptions associated with the condition prevent them from coming forward and talk about it. This leads to delayed diagnosis and treatment. Notably, leprosy is one of the major causes of disability in the world. So, if you think, with the advancement of medical science, leprosy has become a minor problem, you are highly mistaken.
Myth 2: Leprosy cannot be treated.
Fact: Leprosy is curable. There are several antibiotics available to treat the infection. It is was in the year 1995, that the World Health Organisation developed multidrug therapy to treat all types of leprosy. Certain strong antibiotics can potentially kill the bacteria and prevent the occurrence of associated complications including hair loss, disfigurement, disability, blindness, infertility, kidney failure, etc.
Myth 3: Only old people are affected by leprosy.
Fact: Leprosy is not age-specific. It can affect anyone at any point in time. People probably believe in this misconception because of the long incubation period of leprosy causing bacteria and extremely delayed visible signs and symptoms. There are cases in which a person got affected by the infection during adulthood and got visible signs when he became old.