Facts and Myths: Hansen’s Disease

Centuries ago, even before Christ, this disease was thought to be a result of a curse or past sin. In fact, they also thought that those infected were possessed by evil spirits.

While this belief is not that popular nowadays, there is still a stigma on this chronic disease.

Hansen’s disease, or widely known as leprosy, is caused by the slow-growing bacterium known as Mycobacterium leprae, which Norwegian scientist Armauer Hansen discovered in 1873.

Since then, the belief that it was caused by a sinful behavior had gradually changed until the cure to the disease was also discovered. However, the stigma still exists because of myths about this disease remain.

To help us understand about Hansen’s disease, let’s break these myths and get the facts!

Myth: Leprosy is the result of a curse or sinful behavior. It is also a work of evil spirits.
Fact: Hansen’s disease is caused by Mycobacterium leprae, a slow-growing bacterium.

Myth: Leprosy is highly contagious.
Fact: It is not highly contagious. About 95 percent of people can fight off the bacteria because they are naturally immune to it.

Myth: One can get infected through casual contact with someone afflicted with the disease.
Fact: Someone may catch the disease through droplets from coughs or sneezes of an untreated person. It cannot be transmit through sexual contact or pregnancy. One will not get it through casual contact, like talking to or sitting next to someone who has the disease. Shaking hands will not transmit the disease to another person.

Myth: One who has the disease should be quarantine.
Fact: Someone who has Hansen’s disease can be treated without the need to be isolated.

Myth: Hansen’s disease is not curable.
Fact: This disease can be cured with antibiotic or multidrug therapy.

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