While some twenty years ago a million new cases of leprosy were discovered each year, the number of new cases fell below the 300,000 for the first time in 2005. It has since stabilized between 200,000 and 300,000 per year reaching 215,000 new cases in 2013, of which 10% are children, according to figures from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Leprosy Relief Canada agrees with WHO and other organizations fighting against leprosy that this disease remains a perennial scourge. Caused by a mycobacterium that is transmitted through the respiratory tract, leprosy is primarily a disease of poverty Beninese doctor says Roch Christian Johnson. He adds that the disease affects countries with weak health systems, where it touches many young adults leaving some with lifelong consequences.
Leprosy is a very slowly progressing disease. The incubation period is one to ten years sometimes more. Leprosy is a disease difficult to control in poor countries in South Asia, Africa, and America.
According to WHO, India is the country most affected (nearly 127,000 new cases in 2013), followed by Brazil (31,000 cases), Indonesia (nearly 17,000 cases) and two African countries, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (between 3,500 and 4,500 new cases).
In the absence of an effective vaccine, early detection remains at present the only weapon to limit disability and long-term sequelae. Screening of patients in deprived areas often difficult to access remains a challenge for most countries.
Leprosy is a stigmatizing infectious disease known since ancient times, but it disappeared spontaneously in Western countries, in parallel with the increase in the standard of living and the level of hygiene. Leprosy first attacks the skin and nerves, and finally, if it is not treated in time, cause paralysis and mutilation of members and eye damage up to blindness.