KEY FACTS: LEPROSY

Leprosy

  • Leprosy is a chronic disease caused by a bacillus, Mycobacterium leprae.

  • Official figures show that almost 182 000 people, mainly in Asia and Africa, were affected at the beginning of 2012, with approximately 219 000 new cases reported during 2011.

  • M. leprae multiplies very slowly and the incubation period of the disease is about five years. Symptoms can take as long as 20 years to appear.

  • Leprosy is not highly infectious. It is transmitted via droplets, from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contacts with untreated cases.

  • Untreated, leprosy can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes.

  • Early diagnosis and treatment with multidrug therapy (MDT) remain the key elements in eliminating the disease as a public health concern.

(http://www.who.int)