World Leprosy Day: 29th of January - What Do You Really Know About Leprosy?
Published: 22 January 2017
Published: 22 January 2017
Because leprosy, also known as Hansen’s Disease, is rare in Australia (Victoria State Government 2015), you might not know much more about it than what you have seen in media portrayals.
According to South Australian Health (2012), most Australians affected by leprosy are ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from northern Australia and migrants from areas where the disease is more common’.
Did you know that for more than 60 years, World Leprosy Day has taken place on the last Sunday of January, thanks to the French humanitarian, Raoul Folleraeu (Effect Hope 2016)?
Folleraeu aimed to use this day of awareness to catalyse equal care and respect for people with leprosy (Effect Hope 2016). He hoped it could prevent stigmatisation and improve healthcare regarding leprosy, globally.
You may find it interesting that leprosy affects cooler body tissue (e.g. testes, superficial nerves, and the eyes) and it progresses slowly (Victoria State Government 2016) as the bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae), multiplies (WHO 2016).
Leprosy is a chronic infection that is most common in the tropics and subtropics, and can be cured with multi-medicine therapy (Better Health Channel 2016) over 6-24 months, subject to the type of leprosy (SA Health 2012).
WebMD (2015) reports that 16 million people with leprosy have been cured over the last 20 years or so, and the World Health Organization offers free leprosy treatment.
Early treatment and surgery can help to improve deformities and disabilities (SA Health 2012). Treatment is needed to avoid permanent damage such as:
(SA Health 2012)
Contrary to what you may have thought, leprosy is not actually highly contagious (Better Health Channel 2016) and only infects humans (SA Health 2012).
SA Health (2012) reports that transmission occurs from the infected nasal lining of the person with leprosy, to another human’s skin or respiratory tract. Thereby, close contact with infected people increases chances of transmission (Better Health Channel 2016), but not many of the close contacts develop leprosy (SA Health 2012).
In episodes found in new borns and young children it is believed that leprosy passes via the placenta or respiratory droplets (Better Health Channel 2016).
The WHO states leprosy’s incubation period can take five years, however it may take up to as many as twenty years for symptoms of leprosy to show.
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Madeline Gilkes focused the research project for her master's of healthcare leadership on health coaching for long-term weight loss in obese adults. Madeline is also a qualified weight management practitioner and Registered Nurse. Her vision is to prevent lifestyle diseases, obesogenic environments, dementia, and metabolic syndrome. She has a master of healthcare leadership, a graduate certificate in aged care, and a bachelor of nursing. Madeline works as an academic and has spent the past years in the role of clinical facilitator and clinical nurse specialist (gerontology & education). She is due to complete her Graduate Certificate in Adult and Vocational Education at CSU before November 2018.