Myth #1: Leprosy is no longer a problem

Every two minutes, one more person is diagnosed with leprosy. Millions more go undiagnosed each year and around four million are permanently disabled by the disease. Stigma associated with the disease stops people coming forward for treatment, leaving them to develop life-long disabilities in their hands and feet. Fighting prejudice associated with the disease is therefore imperative if we are to beat leprosy.

Myth #2: Leprosy is not curable

Leprosy is completely curable through a 12 month course of treatment called multi-drug therapy, which consists of a combination of two or three drugs.  Once someone starts treatment, they are very quickly no longer infectious.

Myth #3: Leprosy causes your fingers, toes and limbs to drop off

Leprosy does not cause anything to fall off. It can, however, cause nerve damage in three main areas of the body (face, hands and feet). This nerve damage means that the sensory (hot/cold/pain) and motor function (movement) are compromised in these areas. This may mean that a person loses the ability to blink, move their fingers or grasp objects.  

Simple injuries can lead to ulcers and infection. This can lead to shortening of digits (not dropping off).  In time muscle wastage can result in wrists or ankles becoming locked in place, affecting the ability to walk or even perform basic tasks. Where nerves in the face are affected, the loss of blinking function can lead to blindness.

Myth #4: Leprosy only affects older people

Leprosy can affect people of any age, but it does have a long incubation period. This means that sometimes visible symptoms only appear later in life. However, 10% of newly diagnosed people are children.

Myth #5: Leprosy is the result of past sins or immoral behaviour

This is simply not true. Leprosy is caused by bacteria called Myobacterium leprae (M. lepra).

Myth #6: Someone who has leprosy needs to be isolated

Once a person starts treatment to kill the bacteria they are very quickly no longer infectious. There is no need for someone who is diagnosed to be isolated.

Thanks to our work dispelling these myths about leprosy, children like Aadil can be diagnosed and treated quickly. He contracted leprosy at just three years old. 

Read Aadil's story