CNN – Leprosy is a disease most people think ended in the Middle Ages, but a new study shows that it’s not a thing of the past.
Mayo Clinic researchers wanted to understand how common it was in their clinic after a patient was diagnosed with the disease in March 2017.
In the clinic’s electronic health records, they found nine patients diagnosed with leprosy over a 23-year period.
The study authors emphasized that, though it’s rare, the disease should still be considered when diagnosing patients.
“This is not a disease that the average person in the United States has to worry about, but if they develop a rash and have extensive travel to a place where it is common, then they should bring it to the attention of their provider,” said study author and dermatologist Dr. Spencer A. Bezalel. [Will Minnesota, with an estimated 80,000 Somali immigrants, soon be considered one of those places? – Ed.]
According to the World Health Organization, those places include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Brazil.
Each of those countries reported 1,000 new cases of leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, in the past five years. [The WHO reported 1,576 new cases of leprosy in Somalia – in 2017 alone. As we’ve previously reported, Minnesota – where Mayo Clinic is located – has over 80,000 Somali immigrants. – Editor]
Globally, over 200,000 cases of leprosy are diagnosed every year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the United States, there are just 150 to 250 cases diagnosed annually.
The rarity of leprosy in the United States is why it is so often missed, with the average diagnosis taking more than two years, according to Dr. Abinash Virk, study an infectious disease specialist and author of the new study.
Depending on the kind of leprosy and the patient’s reaction, the skin lesions can look like vitiligo, psoriasis or even common dermatitis. What is different about leprosy is a loss of sensation. Read more.
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