Saturday, June 09, 2012

Leprosy: A Gift of Multiculturalism

Leprosy (or, in modern usage, Hansen’s Disease) disappeared from Europe after the advent of modern hygiene and scientific medical treatment. Now, in the 21st century, it has returned to Spain as a part of — you guessed it — cultural enrichment.

Many thanks to our Spanish correspondent Hermes for translating this article from Minuto Digital:

Healthcare alert: Leprosy reappears in Spain due to immigration

Leprosy, an illness which we had long ago forgotten, has reappeared. It reappeared in a different way, without leper colonies or inhuman stigmatizations, but with sporadic infections, which is the most important factor from the epidemiological point of view.

In spite of the fact that this illness continues to be a “rather uncommon” one, doctors give advice to remain watchful. The vast majority of the population has never seen a leper in their whole life. But a recent study by the London Hospital for Tropical Diseases warned that there’s a delay in the diagnosis of up to 80%, which increases the risk that the affected might suffer from serious physical disabilities due to the illness.

Between 15 and 25 cases of leprosy are diagnosed every year in Spain, this being an illness which is very infectious. In the past year 25 people contracted the disease, and there are more than 450 patients in a medical center in Alicante.

The majority of cases in Spain are those of immigrants who almost certainly arrived with the illness already in their bodies. On a worldwide scale, half of the affected victims live in India. There are also sources of infection in Angola, Brazil, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Tanzania.

The illness is caused by a bacterium, the Mycobacterium leprae. In 1981 WHO recommended a combined therapy composed of three drugs (Multidrug therapy — TMM): Dapson, Rifampicin and Clofamizin. “This drug combination kills the pathogen and heals the patient. TMM is secure and effective, and can be given easily to the patient anywhere. The drug is made available to all patients in form of blisters given in a monthly period”, WHO explains.

According to the Fontilles Foundation, the problem arises when there’s no early diagnosis. In this case the illness can cause disabilities, and its consequences may remain even if the illness itself is cured. This and the rejection of sick persons are the main problems regarding this illness in Spain. This declaration was made on The International Day Against Leprosy.