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What is Leprosy?


With a renewed focus on tackling leprosy, the Union Health Ministry has devised a strategic road map for achieving zero cases of the infection by 2030.

  • Despite India being declared “Leprosy Eliminated” in 2005, the country still accounts for over half (52%) of the world’s new leprosy patients. 


GS II- Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Leprosy?
  2. What are the symptoms?
  3. How does it spread?

What is Leprosy?

  • Leprosy is a chronic, progressive bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae.
  • It primarily affects the nerves of the extremities, the skin, the lining of the nose, and the upper respiratory tract.
  • Leprosy is also known as Hansens disease.
  • Hansen’s disease produces skin ulcers, nerve damage, and muscle weakness. If it isn’t treated, it can cause severe disfigurement and significant disability.
  • Hansen’s disease is one of the oldest diseases in recorded history. The first known written reference to Hansen’s disease is from around 600 B.C.
  • Hansen’s disease is common in many countries, especially those with tropical or subtropical climates.
  • It’s not very common in the United States.
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source reports that only 150 to 250 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year.

What are the symptoms?

  • The main symptoms of Hansens disease include:
    • muscle weakness
    • numbness in the hands, arms, feet, and legs
    • skin lesions
  • The skin lesions result in decreased sensation to touch, temperature, or pain.
  • They don’t heal, even after several weeks.
  • They’re lighter than your normal skin tone or they may be reddened from inflammation.

How does it spread?

  • The bacterium Mycobacterium leprae causes Hansen’s disease.
  • It’s thought that Hansen’s disease spreads through contact with the mucosal secretions of a person with the infection. This usually occurs when a person with Hansen’s disease sneezes or coughs.
  • The disease isn’t highly contagious.
  • However, close, repeated contact with an untreated person for a longer period of time can lead to contracting Hansen’s disease.
  • The bacterium responsible for Hansen’s disease multiplies very slowly. The disease has an average incubation period (the time between infection and the appearance of the first symptoms) of five years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

-Source: The Hindu

June 2024