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World Leprosy Day 2019: ‘Ending discrimination, stigma and prejudice’
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World Leprosy Day 2019: ‘Ending discrimination, stigma and prejudice’

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Today is World Leprosy day. It is observed internationally every year on the last Sunday of January to increase the public awareness of the Leprosy or Hansen’s Disease.

This day was chosen in commemoration of the death of Gandhi, the leader of India who understood the importance of leprosy. Leprosy is one of the oldest recorded diseases in the world.

It is an infectious chronic disease that targets the nervous system, especially the nerves in the cooler parts of the body – the hands, feet, and face.

According to the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations the majority of people affected by leprosy are believed to experience some form of stigma and discrimination. Up to half of them will face mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety.

Hansen’s disease, formerly known as leprosy, is caused by Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae ) bacteria.

Although the mode of transmission of Hansen’s disease is not clearly defined, most investigators believe that M. leprae is usually spread person-to-person in respiratory droplets following extended close contact with an infected person, such as living in the same household.

Leprosy is one of the least infectious diseases because it multiplies slowly and the vast majority of people have adequate natural immunity, so don’t contract the disease if exposed.

People who develop clinical illness can experience a wide range of clinical manifestations, but typically develop infections involving the skin, peripheral nerves and nasal mucosa.

Multidrug therapy is made available free of charge through WHO and has been donated to all patients wordwide by Novartis since 2000 (and earlier by The Nippon Foundation since 1995). It provides a simple yet highly effective cure for all types of leprosy.

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