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Leprosy is a bacterial disease of the skin and nerves, which can
progress to involve internal organs if it is not treated. In some forms
of leprosy, the upper airway (nose and throat) may be affected. Leprosy
is more common in parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America than it is in
the United States. Most cases in the United States occur among
immigrants and refugees living in California, Florida, Hawaii,
Louisiana, Texas, Puerto Rico, and New York City.
Anyone can get leprosy, but it is rarely seen in children younger than 3 years old
How leprosy spreads is uncertain
Leprosy is probably spread by close contact with people infected with
Mycobacterium leprae. The bacteria may enter the body through the nose
and broken skin. Untreated leprosy patients have millions of bacteria in
the mucus from their noses.
Symptoms of leprosy include:
Leprosy can be treated with antibiotics
Treatment for leprosy involves taking several antibiotics for at
least 6 months and up to several years. In most cases, a person will
lose the ability to infect others within days to months of starting
Leprosy can be prevented
Early diagnosis and treatment of leprosy may prevent spread of the
disease. People living in the same household as an infected person and
anyone else who comes into close contact with an infected person should
be examined by a doctor and continue to be examined each year for at
least five years.
Leprosy is a reportable disease
Doctors work with local health departments to evaluate people who
have been in close contact with a person diagnosed with leprosy. They
also work to make sure all those who need antibiotics receive them.
There are no restrictions on working or attending school as long as a
person is being treated correctly.
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