A: Leprosy is a disease caused by bacterium called Mycobacterium leprae. It attacks nerves in the hands, feet and face, making them weak and numb.
A: No. Leprosy is not highly infectious and cannot be spread through touch. It is transmitted via droplets from the nose and mouth. Leprosy thrives in poor communities where lack of sanitation, poor nutrition and lower standards of living mean people's immune systems are simply not strong enough to fight the disease.
A: No. Around 95% of the world's population is naturally immune to leprosy. Leprosy does not thrive in New Zealand; however there are a few cases of leprosy found in New Zealand from overseas every year.
A: No. Rather, through loss of feeling, people sometimes cut or burn their hands and feet without knowing. These injuries can become severely infected and lead to disfigurement and amputation.
A: Yes. A simple, inexpensive, yet highly effective cure has been available worldwide since 1995. Treatment can take between six months and 12 months. However, people affected by leprosy are considered non-infectious within 48 hours of starting treatment.
A: Stigma around leprosy stems from superstitions, religious beliefs, attitudes to physical disfigurement and discriminatory laws and practices. Leprosy-affected individuals and families are often forced to live in shame, isolation and poverty. Even if one person in a family is diagnosed with leprosy, the stigma and discrimination they endure impacts their whole family, who may be socially excluded by the community.
A: Families affected by leprosy find it extremely difficult to lift themselves out of poverty. Long stays in hospital, disability, exclusion, discrimination, lack of access to education and unemployment exacerbate their already desperate situation.
A: Globally, more than five million families are still affected by leprosy. Every 2 minutes someone is diagnosed with leprosy.
A: Yes. With your support, the Leprosy Mission New Zealand will continue the push to eliminate leprosy worldwide. Through early diagnosis and treatment, community education and essential support for families, we can end the devastation of leprosy forever.