You may have already heard that leprosy can also affect nine-banded armadillos, which live across the Americas. They are particularly susceptible because they are an unusually cool animal. Their body temperature (34°C) is similar to human skin (also 34 °C). In fact, a small amount of people in the United States are thought to contract leprosy from armadillos each year. But health officials consider this risk to be very low.
Once someone develops a chronic condition (such as a loss of sensation) because of leprosy, they need to take regular care in all activities of daily living and work. Because this is such an extensive and life-long undertaking, it’s better for people affected by leprosy to take responsibility of their condition. This is why you support the implementation of Self Care and Self Help Groups in Timor Leste, Nepal, Nigeria and India. They’re small communities of people affected by leprosy who care, support and advocate for each other.
Reaction is a common complication that can arise when someone has leprosy—sometimes as late as seven years afterwards. It’s an episode of inflammation that affects a third of all leprosy patients. It can result in extensive nerve damage and is the major cause of disability in leprosy. It’s unfortunate for patients that begin to recover from leprosy only to experience further irreversible damage from Reaction. It’s one of the things that makes leprosy such a complex and harmful disease.
Leprosy is a disease that affects people differently according to their immunity to certain bacteria. 5% of people have no immunity. It seems like a category, but it’s more of a spectrum. Some people in that 5% have a small immune response. Others have none. The World Health Organisation has organised these differences under two classifications: Paucibacillary leprosy and Multibacillary leprosy. These classifications have their own symptoms and medical response. Leprosy can be described even further with several sub-types that sit along the Ridley-Jopling Scale. With so many sub-types and symptoms, it’s hard to believe they’re all caused by two simple organisms—M.leprae and M.lepromatosis.
Gandhi leaving after an interview in Delhi, April 18 1946. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.