Leprosy: An Infectious Disease

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Leprosy is an infectious disease caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium leprae. The disease mainly affects the skin and peripheral nerves. It has an incubation period of about 5 years, and some people may only begin to notice symptoms 20 years after being infected. These symptoms may include:
• Loss of feeling in the arms, legs, hands and feet
• Muscle weakness
• Skin sore or lumps which are lighter in comparison to the infected person’s normal skin colour, have decreased sensations to touch, heat or pain, and do not heal after several weeks or months
Although M. leprae was first discovered in 1873, the way in which it is transmitted is still not completely understood. Some scientists, however, believe that the bacterium is spread through respiratory droplets in the air during close and long-term contact with an untreated case.
Leprosy is not highly contagious, but a person can be infected by coming into close and frequent contact with an infected person and by being exposed to droplets from the nose and mouth of an infected person. It is most common in
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leprae, will not develop full-blown leprosy, as our immune systems are strong enough to fight off the bacteria. People who are infected and develop the disease are likely to have genes which make them susceptible to the infection. After infection however, it is important to receive treatment as soon as possible in order to kill the bacteria disease and avoid other complications which may occur if left untreated – such as blindness, disfiguration of the face, erectile dysfunction, kidney failure, permanent damage to the inside of the nose and nerves outside the brain and spinal

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