Leprosy has affected people all throughout history. The first account of leprosy was in Egypt a few thousand years ago where skeletal evidence was found. A young man’s, Sk27, body was found dating back to the twelfth century. His skeleton showed clues of leprosy. Sk27’s bones suggested possible signs, for example a lack of sticky plaque that had formed as because of a poor dental hygiene, bad diet, and mouth and jaw changes (Killgrove).
Skeletons of humans with leprosy were identified easily because of the way it affects the body. Leprosy was thought to be hereditary or a curse. Until in 1873, Dr. Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen from Norway identified the bacteria under a microscope.
He did so after he joined as an assistant physician in a leprosy specific hospital in Bergen and getting his medical degree from the University of Oslo. He was the first to identify Mycobacterium leprae, the scientific name of leprosy. By discovering this Dr. Hansen proved that leprosy was caused by a germ not a curse.Mycobacterium leprae, commonly known as leprosy or Hansen’s disease, is a slow-growing bacteria. The bacteria is a gram-positive bacillus or rod-shaped. Leprosy can only survive in host cells because it is a parasitic bacterium. It avoids detection by the immune system by attacking Schwann cells, cells that detect nerves and helps them to conduct impulses.
The scientific name for leprosy, Mycobacterium leprae is used so that people all around the world communicate easier about this bacteria.Leprosy is not contracted easily. The disease is mostly thought to be spread from frequent closeness to an infected person or in other cases animals. The liquid drops from the person with leprosy nose or mouth contain the bacteria. This can spread with a cough or sneeze of the infected person. Although this is the most known way of contracting leprosy, scientist have not been able to prove it indefinitely. Leprosy is not a commonly contracted disease.
One interaction with an individual with leprosy will not infect another individual. The disease will only develop in a person if they are constantly around a person who has leprosy. A small percentage of people will in fact be infected with the bacteria but will not develop leprosy.
Leprosy infects a very small parts of the world, mostly in third world countries.Controlment of leprosy is done in a variety of ways. Clinics were sent up to treat patients. Unfortunately, this method did not last long.
The cost of keeping hired and certified medical staff was difficult, along with having patients staying on the medication for a long period of time. Another method, which was more successful, was leprosy villages. The infected individuals were interested in this idea because of the isolation it provided along with being more economical and self-supporting(Buker).
Leprosy damages the nerves in a person’s body. This damage can then infect the skin, which is why rashes and even sores appear on the body. The number or type of sore developed can determine the type of leprosy the individual has. Different types are tuberculoid, which is mild and less contagious.
Another type is lepromatous which is much worse and displays a larger number of sores or rashes. Borderline leprosy is a mix of both of these types and can be either mildly or severely contagious. Leprosy is a slow-growing bacteria.
This means that the symptoms of this disease do not show for a few years. Some cases the rashes or sore will not show for close to 20 years or not at all. The time period between getting the bacteria and getting symptoms is the incubation period. These long periods of time which make it hard to determine when the disease is actually contracted.
The nerve damage that leprosy causes can make the areas where rashes or sores are found numb. Leprosy affects the brain and spinal cord nerves. These nerves are called the peripheral nerves.
Muscle weakness and skin infections are the most common symptoms of leprosy. In severe cases individuals lose eyesight, hair, and even limbs because of disfiguration (EMedicineHealth). Leprosy can be treated and if caught early enough cured. Antibiotics can be used for treatment for the infection.
For longer periods of time multiple antibiotics are used for up to a year. Unfortunately when in late stages antibiotics cannot fix nerve damage. Once disfiguration has passed a certain stage limbs must be amputated to avoid worsening of body or disease (Waxler). On the island Molokai in Hawaii, an area called Kalaupapa is the most popular leprosy colony. Kalaupapa is surrounded by cliffs making it perfect for an isolated lifestyle. Around 8,000 individuals packed up to move to the isolated area over 70 year time period. For the most of the world it seemed like a perfect solution, but for the people living there, but it was a nightmare.
Banished and forced to this island and away from their family was not a choice for most of Kalaupapa residents. Lifestyle in Kalaupapa before the isolation law was lifted in 1969 was an experience. Activities were setup to make life seem as normal as possible. Treatments and test were done to try and cure the population. Some people were able to make families and refreshed in the lifestyle they were forced to live.
Most people were glad to be away from the feeling of people thinking they were less or not human anymore(Senthiliningam).Depending on what country was to use leprosy as a bioterrorist weapon and on who would determine the different results. In the U.S it is more unlikely for this attack to work because of the as to medical treatment. It would be more accomplished in a third world country because of their lack of medical treatment and living conditions.
It can be spread in water and by the nose, so it can just be spread in a populated area. The country that launched the attack could isolate the area by using the idea of fear that it could spread to everyone else so they avoid treatment. It can be used for crippling another country but does not cause early death. The meaning it would not help with overpopulation or in eliminating them, only to isolate them from everyone else.
Leprosy is a painful disease that affects a small portion of the world. Over the last hundred years, leprosy treatment has improved and fewer people have not gotten and or been permanently crippled. Leprosy colonies are now almost extinct and people are no longer segregated because of the affects the bacteria has on the body. The world of medicine has come along way to treat and end leprosy and the effects it has on a person’s body and mind.