World Leprosy Day falls on the last Sunday in January. The day was chosen by Raoul Follereau, a French humanitarian in 1953. He decided this day as it is the third Sunday from Epiphany in the Catholic Calendar.

In the gospel, Jesus heals a person with leprosy, hence the chosen day. World Leprosy day gathers charities and partners in joining awareness of leprosy.

There are as many as 210,000 new cases each year, and there are millions more that are living with leprosy undiagnosed. According to the World Health Organisation, leprosy affects more than 212,000 people globally in 2015, 60% of sufferers are in India followed by Brazil and Indonesia.

There are 8.9% of new cases that were children, and 6.7% has deformities. World Leprosy Day helps in the awareness and intervention with a focus to avoid transmitting the disease. Although the disease is now curable, there are many from under-developed countries who still contract the disease.

What is Leprosy?

Leprosy or Hansen’s disease (HD) is caused by Mycobacterium leprae which is a bacterial infection. The virus attacks the skin and superficial nerves. There are no apparent symptoms, and the disease may remain dormant for many years.

The disease also affects the nose, eyes, throat and testicles. Granulomas will develop on the outer layer of the skin and will lead to a lack of ability to feel pain, and further lead to the loss of parts of the extremities.

Initially, leprosy is possibly spread from armadillos, and people contract the disease through a cough or sneeze from an infected person. It is thought not to be highly contagious. Two types of bacteria cause the disease: paucibacillary and multibacillary, paucibacillary have five or fewer poorly pigmented, numb skin patches and multibacillary have more than five.

Symptoms of Leprosy

The main sign of leprosy is lesions of the skin and impact on the peripheral nervous system (PNS) which controls the sensory, motor and autonomic nerves.

The symptoms of leprosy are listed below:

  • Sensory nerve damage – when there is damage, pain is not felt. The extremities of hands and feet will be vulnerable to injuries that will result in the loss of fingers, toes, hands and feet.
  • Eye nerve damage – leads to blindness.
  • Motor nerve damage – may lead to paralysis
  • Autonomic nerve damage – will affect blood pressure, heart rate, the ability to sweat and bladder control.

Treatment for Leprosy

Before the 1980s, leprosy could only be slowed but not cured. With the advancement of medical development, antibiotics and other medicine can cure leprosy.

If a person is infected, they can quickly become non-infectious if the patient is adequately treated.

There is no leprosy vaccine, but the BCG vaccine, which is used to vaccinate against tuberculosis (TB) may provide some protection against leprosy as the organism that causes leprosy is related to the one that causes TB.

You can always donate for a good cause, by giving to local leprosy charities, will assist missions around the world in fighting and treating people who are diagnosed with leprosy. World Leprosy Day will help those who are unfortunate by uniting all efforts around the world for a single cause. Visit The World Health Organization for more information on World Leprosy Day.

To find more related information regarding leprosy for you and how you can protect against it, you can also visit Okadoc and get advice from the many general practitioners around your area.