When you think of childhood diseases, what do you think of? Measles, chicken pox, mumps? These diseases have been around for a long time and many children are still at risk of them today, but how about leprosy?

In India and Bangladesh children are still at risk of catching this ancient disease. Each year almost 10 per cent of the people diagnosed with leprosy are children.

Leprosy doesn’t just affect their health like other diseases, they can be stigmatised and bullied. Many experience a very lonely childhood.

When most children should be in school learning or outside playing with friends, children affected by leprosy are excluded from school and shunned by their classmates.

Leprosy continues to be transmitted

Research shows that children affected by leprosy often have a family or community member who has also had the disease. This is worrying as it means that leprosy is continuing to be transmitted.

Unlike common childhood diseases we are used to, there is no vaccine for leprosy, but it is curable, and more importantly we can make huge steps towards preventing the spread of the disease amongst families and communities.

Five year old Aadil was diagnosed with leprosy at just three years old. His father had also had the disease and now his younger brother is showing symptoms.

How can we stop this?

With a simple survey in the family, we can stop these young children from potentially contracting this disease.

Contact surveys can be carried out when a person comes to a centre showing symptoms of leprosy. Health staff can then visit their village and community and see if any other members are showing symptoms.

With these surveys, we could also diagnose children sooner and prevent life-changing disabilities for children like Bhola and Laxmipriya.

Both of them developed disabilities in their hands, meaning they could no longer write or play games.

You may not have fond memories of your childhood vaccinations, or the itching from chicken pox but the devastating effects of leprosy can be far worse.