Leprosy in Ireland and India
Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s Disease or Kusht in most Indian languages, is one of the oldest communicable diseases in the world with some reports dating as far back as 600BC. For example, written accounts on a homoeopathic remedy utilised in the treatment of leprosy in India can be dated back to 400BC. After many centuries, research by G.H. Armauer Hansen (hence why leprosy is also known as Hansen’s Disease) in 1873 lead to the discovery of the etiology (cause of the disease) of leprosy. Leprosy is caused by a bacterium, Mycobacterium Leprae, which multiplies very slowly. It has an incubation period – where the disease is present but not active – of up to 5 years. However, symptoms can take up to 20 years to appear. Furthermore, leprosy was found to be an infectious disease – only infectious to those with a low immune system – that primarily affects the skin, superficial nerves and respiratory mucosa. Symptoms range from hypo-pigmented patches of skin (lack of pigmentation of the skin), loss of sensation in affected areas or deformities of upper and lower limbs.
Did you know? The word Leprosy originates from the Latin word lepros, which means defilement – i.e. indicating the deformities that can happen if leprosy is not treated
Fortunately for Ireland and most European countries; the demographics of this disease has greatly changed over the last number of decades. No official cases of leprosy were reported in Ireland between 1981 and 2012. However, in 2012, two cases of leprosy were confirmed but both cases were said to be contracted outside of Ireland.
Did you know? 95% of people are believed to be naturally immune to leprosy which is why many now refer to leprosy as the “least contagious communicable disease”