About Leprosy

I live in Berlin, a city with a good infrastructure. This is my luck. I have competent doctors of the Tropical Institute of the Charité at my side and can also count on psycho- and physiotherapy support. Anyone who has ever lived in a country less social, knows the German health care system very much appreciated.

In addition, Berlin is an enlightened and tolerant city. Of course I noticed the curious glances, but I never had to feel marginalized.

That was and is in Europe not always so. And in many regions of the world, there is still the medieval prejudices and the associated stigma leprosy.

Leprosy is one of the oldest infectious diseases in the world. In Germany, the original name for the disease was “suspended“, as the patients infected with the leprosy had to live outside of human settlements. They were suspended.

The disease is already mentioned in the earliest writings such as the Hearst papyrus mentions (around 1500 v. Chr.) and the Old Testament.

Who then has the leprosy disease, to carry torn clothes and the hair loose and beard concealed and shall cry, Unclean, unclean! And as long as the disease is in him he shall be unclean, well alone, and shall his habitation be outside the camp. “(3rd Book of Moses)

Leprosy was considered in the Middle Ages as a scourge of God, as punishment for sinners. Healthy again, who cared for leprosy patient, without any symptoms of leprosy, therefore, had the reputation of being protected by a higher power.

Consistent with the migration of early man, the origin of leprosy in East Africa was adopted. The general spread of leprosy in Europe in the Middle Ages is often attributed to the Crusades. It reached its peak during the 13th century and disappeared with the end of the 16th century, largely from the ranks of chronic widespread diseases in Central Europe. It is assumed that leprosy is primarily pushed back by a bacterium related to him. The weakened by leprosy people were also frequently affect of tuberculosis, which pretty quickly killed the sick and thus prevented the spread of infectious hardly leprosy.

Our ancestors knew and feared the leprosy patient, as Martin Luther translated the Greek word leprosy in the Bible, for the diagnosis of leprosy did not bring the persons affected the physical, but social death. The afflicted by leprosy had to leave the human community.

Quoted at the beginning of this book »Mass of Separation” is an example of this. A newly identified leprosy patient was accompanied by the whole community to his new home outside the city and read the separation fair by a priest in front of the hut.

The Norwegian G. A. Hansen discovered the pathogen in 1873. Leprosy is therefore called “Hansen‘s disease”.

Today, many assume that the disease was eradicated. In fact, each year 250,000 new cases are registered worldwide, however. Estimated two to four million people as a result of leprosy with disabilities. About 90 percent of cases occur in India, Brazil and several Asian and African countries.

The bacterium Mycobacterium lepraeapplies as the cause of leprosy. It infects the skin, the peripheral nerves and very occasionally internal organs. Leprosy is a disease of poverty. As the infection itself, is not fully understood. As favoring causes of transmission come poor diet, questioned dirty water and cramped living spaces.

The bacterium multiplies very slowly. It is very durable and can be up to twenty years in the human body to keep the first symptoms arise. Most people are apparently immune to leprosy. They come in contact with the pathogen without the disease ever breaks out.

Typical signs of the disease are skin spots that are red with light skin and appear bright in dark skin and feel numb. With progression of the symptoms of those affected often lose their sense of pain in the hands and feet. Bodily injury and often the wounds become infected. This can lead to loss of limbs. Therefore considers to be persistent the misconception that leprosy could rot off the limbs.

Leprosy is with early diagnosis today completely curable by a triple antibiotic combination. This chemotherapy is applied on the recommendation of the WHO since 1982 in a hitherto almost unknown modified form. The medication must be taken over a long period of time, depending on the course as six months to several years to the body of the person concerned completely kill the bacteria.
Healing process is not my intention to shock you. My lower leg but can give an idea of what can be achieved by treatment of the disease. Or not, if leprosy patients have insufficient medical care.

It often occurs during treatment in a defensive reaction of the immune system that cause painful inflammation that can lead to permanent nerve damage and paralysis or damage to other organs. This change is called leprosy reaction. The case given complex operations must be treated by a specialist with the patient individually tailored therapy.

Effective in the treatment of erythema nodosum leprosum is the drug thalidomide, formerly known under the brand name of thalidomide. Because of the harmful side effects during pregnancy on the fetus severe therapy-accompanying safety precautions apply.

So far there is no effective vaccine against the pathogen. Only through early detection and timely onset of therapy more infections and irreparable damage can be prevented. Here, the health education of the population plays a crucial role to fight both the disease and the stigma of those affected.

Ignorance and prejudice will last until the present time. In Japan Infected were detained with forced sterilization and forced labor until 1996 under a law of 1931 life in closed institutions, the leprosaria, even then stood still, as before treatment options available.

In Brazil, there were up to the 80s leprosaria and the children of the patients were forcibly separated from their parents and brought up in foster care. They were considered “Damnand argue to this day unsuccessfully for justice and compensation. Also, there are still old residents there in the so-called “colonies”. They survive on handouts.

Even today, there are a number of countries, including the UK, USA and China, refuse to infected entry permits.