Merida. Yucatan, January 26, 2023.- “Leprosy is an infectious disease and is recognized as being the most difficult to acquire, since only five out of 100 people who are exposed to the microbe (Mycobacterium leprae) that causes leprosy, develop it at some point in their lives”, said Dr. Lilia Guadalupe Solis Farfán, Head of the ISSSTE Medical Care Department.
The doctor said that leprosy is not hereditary, nor is it easily contagious, however, close and continuous contact, for a minimum of six months, with a patient without treatment, increases the risk of getting infected. Symptoms can appear between six and 20 years after contact with an infected patient, plus a genetic predisposition is needed to acquire it.
The expert explained that leprosy is manifested by light or dark spots on the skin, nodules, or plaques in which there is loss of sensitivity, there is no sweating and hair falls out, which is why it is known as the three AAA, (Anesthesia, Anhidrosis, and Alopecia), by the respective type of reaction.
There may also be neurological alterations after infection that consist of thickening and pain in the peripheral nerves, such as the elbow, behind the knee, and in the ankles. Despite being a disfiguring disease, today, thanks to free polychemotherapy and timely diagnosis, it is difficult to see cases of leprosy with high degrees of disability.
He stressed that leprosy is curable in the course of six months to five years depending on the type of bacteria that attacks.
The most frequent location is on the face, trunk, and extremities. There may be generalized diffuse infiltration or areas with sensitivity disorders without dermatological lesions. Because the multiplication of the bacillus is very slow, it can take up to 20 years for skin lesions to appear. Its contagion is through particles of nasal secretion or in aerosols through the mucous membranes, when there is close and frequent contact with an infected person.
Leprosy is a disease with a lot of stigma and discrimination. There are communities where the population refrains from mentioning that they have had contact with an infected person, to avoid rejection. The drugs used to treat the disease are dapsone, rifampicin, and clofazimine, which are free and have a sufficient supply in Mexico.
He concludes by saying that in the treatment the person is considered cured, however, epidemiological surveillance is maintained on the other members of the family, in order to identify any warning symptoms that indicate contagion of the disease.