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  • What is leprosy?

    Leprosy is a bacterial disease which affects the skin and nerves.

  • How do you get leprosy?

    Because leprosy is a bacterial disease, this means that it is contagious. It is believed that it is spread by droplet infection - coughs and sneezes. However, the disease has a very long incubation period - an average of 3-5 years, although it has been known to be incubated for over 30 years. You would need to be in regular, close contact with someone with leprosy for a number of weeks to be in danger of contracting the disease yourself.

  • What are the symptoms of leprosy?

    Leprosy normally presents as a patch on the skin which doesn’t itch, doesn’t sweat and has no sensation. Leprosy is diagnosed by testing the sensation of the skin patches - which may be paler than usual or slightly raised and red in colour. Leprosy looks very similar to many other more common skin conditions which makes it difficult to diagnose.

  • Is leprosy the same as Hansen’s Disease?

    Hansen’s Disease is an alternative name for leprosy, after the Norwegian scientist who discovered the bacteria which cause leprosy. Because the words ‘leprosy’ and ‘leper’ have become derogatory terms in modern language, it was thought better to use the name Hansen’s Disease to reduce the discrimination which often follows a diagnosis of leprosy. However, leprosy remains the more common name.

  • Is there leprosy in New Zealand?

    A few cases of leprosy are diagnosed in New Zealand each year. These are usually in people who have contracted the disease overseas and had no idea that they were incubating leprosy when they came to New Zealand.

  • Can leprosy be cured?

    Yes! Leprosy is curable. In the early 40s and 50s, a sulphone drug called Dapsone was used to treat leprosy, however in time the disease developed some resistance to Dapsone and it was no longer a guaranteed cure. Since the 1980s three different drugs are used in combination to treat leprosy. These drugs are Dapsone, Rifampicin and Clofazamine. The treatment has to be taken for between 6 months and 2 years according to the severity of the disease, and the medical regimen of the country in which you are being treated.

  • Can you die from leprosy?

    Leprosy itself won’t kill you, although severe infection in wounds suffered as a result of leprosy may be fatal if not treated promptly.

  • Do parts of the body drop off with leprosy?

    No, leprosy doesn’t cause parts of the body to drop off. However, it is not unusual for fingers and toes to gradually reduce in size due to the bones diminishing - even right down to the knuckle. Additionally, the bridge of the nose can also disappear. Sometimes hands and feet can be seriously injured from burns, or ulcers, because of a lack of sensation in them. If ulcers become serious, the sufferer may have to have the affected limb amputated.

  • Is the disease of leprosy mentioned in the Bible the same as the leprosy of today?

    Leprosy is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, it is highly unlikely that the disease being talked about was leprosy as there has been no archaeological proof that leprosy was around at that time.

    However, it is possible that the leprosy mentioned in the New Testament could be referring to the same disease.

  • How can I help people with leprosy?

    Please give a donation towards the work of the The Pacific Leprosy Foundation. The Foundation ONLY helps people and families affected by leprosy. A donation to the Foundation will be used in the fight to eradicate leprosy in the South Pacific and the associated discrimination and poverty.