Leprosy: The disease
Leprosy is a disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, a bacterium which primarily affects the skin and peripheral nerves.
The main mode of transmission is considered to be air-borne, through droplets discharged from the respiratory tract of untreated infectious cases
The disease is completely curable with multi-drug therapy (MDT) and is considered to be one of the least infectious disease, with >99% of the population having adequate immunity against the disease.
However, the disease entails traditional stigma and those affected can be victims of discrimination and often displacement. This is mainly due to the disabilities and deformities that occur as a consequence of peripheral nerve damage in leprosy.
A Disease of Poverty
Leprosy is a leading cause of permanent disability in the world and predominantly affects the poor marginalized people. Although not fatal, the chronic symptoms often afflict individuals in their most productive stage of life and therefore impose a significant social and economic burden on society.
In addition to its economic impact, leprosy imposes a heavy social burden upon affected individuals and their families. Patients are often shunned, stigmatized, isolated and sometimes displaced from their work, marriage and social set-up, needing care and financial support leading to further insecurity, shame, and consequent economic loss.