Awareness of Hansen’s Disease in the United States

July 31, 2010

To some people, it might at first appear that leprosy or Hansen’s disease as it is properly known, is a disease of the third world, or of poverty torn countries, or confined to India. However, compiled statistics reveal that although it is comparatively rare in the United States, there are currently approximately 6,500 cases and about 3,300 require active medical management. One problem is that diagnosis in the US is often delayed because health care providers are unaware of Hansen’s disease (leprosy) and its symptoms.

Although Hansen’s disease is not a common infectious disease, it has not been eradicated from the US population, and is endemic, particularly in the Gulf Coast region. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prevalence has remained relatively stable in the United States. Hansen’s disease is nationally notifiable, and in 2002, 96 cases occurring in the United States were reported to CDC. There are approximately 100 to 150 new cases diagnosed each year.

In 2008 (the most recent year for which data are available) 150 new cases were reported in the the United States, with the majority of these new cases (97 or 65%) reported in California, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York and Texas.

Once you realize that even in the United States Hansen’s Disease is still a problem, all be it a small one, then you can appreciate the problem in less affluent countries. Awareness of Hansen’s Disease in the United States can contribute to the solution worldwide, and help to eradicate this disfiguring disease forever.

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