FAQs on Leprosy

Q: What is leprosy?
A: Leprosy is a bacterial disease affecting mainly the skin and the nerves.

Q: Is leprosy hereditary?
A: No, Leprosy is not hereditary.

Q: Is leprosy very infectious?
A: On the contrary, leprosy is sometimes called the least infectious of infectious diseases. More than 85% of cases of leprosy are non-infectious and do not spread the disease. Over 95% of people have a natural immunity or resistance to leprosy.

Q: How is leprosy transmitted?
A: Leprosy is thought to be transmitted through the air via droplets from the nose and mouth during close and frequent contact with untreated infectious individuals

Q: Is leprosy curable?
A: Yes. Leprosy s cured by multidrug therapy (MDT), a highly effective treatment that became available in the early 1980s. MDT is a combination of three drugs – Dapsone, Clofazimine, and Rifampicin – administered over a 6- 1o 12- month period. The first dose of MDT kills 99.9% of the microorganisms in the body that cause leprosy.

Q: What are the symptoms of leprosy?
A: The first sign of leprosy is usually the appearance of patches on the skin. These patches are accompanied by a loss of sensation in the areas affected.

Q: Where is treatment available?
A: Leprosy can be diagnosed and treated at the nearest primary health center or health post as leprosy services are being integrated into the general health services in every country.

Q: Is treatment expensive?
A: Treatment costs nothing. Since 1995, the WHO has supplied MDT free to all patients in the world, initially with funding provided by The Nippon Foundation, and subsequently through MDT donated by Novartis and the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development.

Q: Does leprosy lead to physical disability?
A: Not if it is treated early and fully.

Q: Is there any reason to isolate people with leprosy?
A: No. Today there is no medical or social justification for isolating people with leprosy. People can continue their normal way of life while receiving treatment. Any attempt to isolate people with leprosy stigmatizes them and reinforces age-old prejudices about the disease.

Q: What can be done to eliminate stigma against people affected by leprosy?

  • Reject the use of derogatory terms such as ‘leper’ and its equivalent in other languages: a person should not be defined by his or her disease.
  • Acknowledge that people cured of the disease and their families are full members of society.
  • Remember that “Every person is born free and equal in dignity and human rights.” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948)
  • Pass on the message that leprosy is curable, non-contagious and treatment is free.