About Leprosy (Hansen’s disease)
Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is preventable and curable. In fact, 95% of the world population has natural immunity.
Leprosy is caused by Mycobacterium leprae and transmitted via droplets through the nose and mouth of untreated persons affected by leprosy. After infection, it can take up to 20 years before symptoms begin to appear.
Since 1981, more than 16 million persons affected by leprosy have been treated with multi-drug therapy (MDT), donated at first by The Nippon Foundation, and since 2000 by Novartis, through the World Health Organization (WHO). Access to MDT has reduced the global number of people being treated for M. leprae infection by 99%. However, the number of people newly diagnosed with leprosy has plateaued at more than 200,000 per year for over a decade. The majority of new leprosy diagnoses occur in India, Brazil, and Indonesia, where persons affected often delay medical attention due to limited access to health services or fear of stigma and discrimination.
Leprosy has medical and social implications, forcing people to abandon professions, lose sources of income, and limit access to health services. These implications affect individuals, families, and society as a whole.