Leprosy's spread, panic weakened over history

Leprosy's spread, panic weakened over history

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - So often people hear the term "leprosy" and panic. It's a disease referenced in biblical times, but it is not the same as it used to be.

Leprosy, or Hansen's Disease is a chronic, infectious disease which shows up in 150 to 200 cases per year.

One of those cases, we learned Wednesday, has recently been diagnosed in Morgan County.

It was diagnosed by dermatologist Angelo Mancuso. He says this particular patient was probably infect as much as 2 years ago and the familiar traits associated with the condition - loss of fingers or toes - have not yet started.

"The last case was in 2012. Before that it was 2007. The 2007 case and the 2012, they were both from south Alabama," Said Dr. Angelo Mancuso. "One had to do with Armadillo. There wasn't any record of where the transmission was, so this is the first case in North Alabama."

Armadillos are the only animal that also contracts the disease. People hunt, trap and eat them.

No longer are the days where mention of the word 'leprosy' would send communities in a panic, nor is there a rush to send one of the unfortunate people who contract the condition to a "leper colony."

"The good news is about 90 percent of the human population is immune to this disorder," said Dr. Mancuso. "That's always a plus. It's very common in the South Pacific [and] in Asian areas. Of the United States, we're looking at California, Florida, Texas and Hawaii."

Dr. Mancuso says he is turning the patient over to a "contagious disease specialist" for further treatment.

Treatment is usually a simple oral remedy which takes a few weeks to kick in.

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