Leprosy is a mildly infectious disease that attacks nerves in the hands, feet and face, making them weak and numb.
Often considered a disease of the past, leprosy in fact continues to affect millions of people around the world, with hundreds of thousands of new diagnoses every year, and many known to continue undiagnosed.
Most New Zealanders are not aware that leprosy exists today. In fact, every two minutes someone is diagnosed with leprosy.
Leprosy is curable, not highly contagious, and most people have a natural immunity to it, but a lack of knowledge and understanding about the disease is one of the key challenges as we seek to defeat it entirely.
Leprosy (or Hansen’s Disease) is a disease caused by the bacillus mycobacterium leprae.
Leprosy starts by damaging nerves close to the surface of the skin. The first signs are often discoloured patches on the body that have lost sensation.
Because mycobacterium leprae multiplies slowly, symptoms of the disease can take a long time to develop - around five years on average but sometimes as long as 20 years.
Yes. Leprosy is not an affliction of the past. It is a 21st-century disease, devastating people’s lives right now. 2000 years after Jesus ministered to people affected by leprosy, the disease continues to affect men, women, and children. We will not stop until leprosy is defeated.
A cure for leprosy has been available since 1982. Multidrug therapy (MDT) is a combination of three drugs taken daily for six or 12 months, depending on the severity of the disease. But while treatment stops leprosy from progressing, it can’t reverse disability. This is why the specialist services we provide are vital.
A clawed hand dropped a foot or damaged eyelids can be restored with surgery. Custom-made protective footwear can reduce the chances of injury and stop ulcers from developing. However, some disabilities caused by leprosy are too severe for surgery to have much effect.