Leprosy not hereditary, get early treatment to avoid serious complications

Leprosy not hereditary, get early treatment to avoid serious complications

KUALA LUMPUR,. Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is not a type of hereditary disease, says Rebecca Choong Kai Jan, the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre Dermatology Clinical physician.

She said the disease, which affects the skin and the peripheral nerves and causes deformity to the fingers, feet, eyes and face, is caused by Mycobacterium leprae.

She also explained that the disease is not transmitted through touch but via droplets, from the nose and mouth, for example, when one sneezes, coughs or shares meals.

“The rate of leprosy infection is low, usually close contacts must be in contact for at least 20 hours a week for three months to be infected.

“This is different compared to COVID-19, which has a higher infection rate. For example, it would take just 10 hours and 20 minutes of being in contact with a COVID-19 patient for a person to be infected,” she said as a guest on Bernama TV’s ‘Apa Khabar Malaysia’ programme on ‘Kusta Bukan Penyakit Keturunan’ (Leprosy is not a hereditary disease) today.

Choong said there are two types of leprosy disease, namely Paucibacillary and Multibacillary, both of which can be cured and the complications reduced from getting worse if detected early and treated promptly.

“Multibacillary means multiple or many while bacillary is the bacteria. So, this type is more serious.

Paucibacillary, though, is not so serious.

“The symptoms of leprosy are usually lumps on the body, bruises and changes to skin colour as well as ulcers on the skin that do not heal. If leprosy is left untreated, it will cause a lot of complications, including deformities of the toes, fingers, nose and face, ulcers on the skin getting bigger, developing cataracts and Glaucoma that can cause blindness,” she said.

She added that the treatment period for leprosy patients varies according to the type of disease and monitoring is needed after a patient has undergone treatment.

“If the leprosy is not serious, usually the treatment period will be six months but, if it is serious, the treatment will take 12 months. After treatment, monitoring is required for five years for Paucibacillary and 15 years for Multibacillary.

“Usually, after a leprosy patient is given treatment by taking a combination of antibiotics for four weeks, he will not infect others,” she said.

— BERNAMA

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