A DISEASE that can leave sufferers blind and paralyzed is on the rise in the US, experts warn.
Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is an infectious disease that affects the skin and nervous system.
Today, the disease is rarely found in the United States, but the number of cases is increasing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of reported leprosy cases in the southeastern states has more than doubled in the past decade.
About 159 new cases were reported in the United States in 2020.
Of those cases, nearly 70 percent were reported in Florida, California, Louisiana, Hawaii, New York and Texas.
Central Florida alone accounted for nearly 20 percent of all reported cases statewide, suggesting the disease has become endemic in the region.
The CDC recommended that a trip to Florida be considered when tracing leprosy contacts in each state.
Leprosy has historically been rare in the United States, with infections peaking around 1983.
Thereafter, until the year 2000, there was a drastic decline in the annual number of documented cases.
Since then, reports have shown a gradual increase in the incidence of leprosy in the United States.
Leprosy is still endemic in parts of the world, with around 200,000 people diagnosed each year around the world.
The World Health Organization is working to eradicate the disease completely, and in 2019 45 countries reported no new cases.
Transmission is usually through droplets from the mouth, but can also be transmitted through prolonged skin contact or through contamination from tattoos.
In the Middle Ages, those affected were excluded from society for fear of the risk of infection, but today the disease can be cured with modern medicine.
The disease is now treated with a combination of antibiotics.
symptoms of leprosy
Leprosy primarily affects the skin and nerves, but in some cases can also affect other parts of the body.
The disease develops extremely slowly, with some infected individuals not developing symptoms for decades after exposure.
The disease can cause skin symptoms such as:
- Discolored patches of skin, usually flat, that may be numb and look faded (lighter than the skin around them)
- Growths (nodules) on the skin
- Thick, stiff, or dry skin
- Painless ulcers on the soles of the feet
- Painless swelling or lumps on the face or earlobes
- Loss of eyebrows or eyelashes
Symptoms of nerve damage are:
- Numbness of the affected skin areas
- muscle weakness or paralysis (especially in the hands and feet)
- Enlarged nerves (especially around the elbows and knees and on the sides of the neck)
- Eye problems that can lead to blindness (when facial nerves are affected)
Symptoms caused by the disease of the mucous membranes are: