Back in March 15, my friends and I went on a run in an event called Run for Leprosy, held by Teach For Indonesia. Run for Leprosy is a social fundraiser to help people suffering from leprosy. By taking part of the run, we helped contribute for the fundraising. Now, what is this leprosy as a goal of this event?
Leprosy is an infectious disease that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms and legs. The disease has been around since ancient times, often surrounded by terrifying, negative stigmas and tales of leprosy patients being shunned as outcasts. Outbreaks of leprosy have affected, and panicked, people on every continent. The oldest civilizations of China, Egypt, and India feared leprosy was an incurable, mutilating, and contagious disease.
However, leprosy is actually not that contagious. You can catch it only if you come into close and repeated contact with nose and mouth droplets from someone with untreated leprosy. Children are more likely to get leprosy than adults.
Today, about 180,000 people worldwide are infected with leprosy, according to the World Health Organization, most of them in Africa and Asia. About 200 people are diagnosed with leprosy in the U.S. every year, mostly in the South, California, Hawaii, and some U.S. territories.
Leprosy is caused by a slow-growing type of bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae). Leprosy is also known as Hansen’s disease, after the scientist who discovered M. leprae in 1873.
Leprosy primarily affects the skin and the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, called the peripheral nerves. It may also strike the eyes and the thin tissue lining the inside of the nose.
The main symptom of leprosy is disfiguring skin sores, lumps, or bumps that do not go away after several weeks or months. The skin sores are pale-colored.
Nerve damage can lead to:
- Loss of feeling in the arms and legs
- Muscle weakness
It usually takes about 3 to 5 years for symptoms to appear after coming into contact with the leprosy-causing bacteria. Some people do not develop symptoms until 20 years later. The time between contact with the bacteria and the appearance of symptoms is called the incubation period. Leprosy’s long incubation period makes it very difficult for doctors to determine when and where a person with leprosy got infected.
References: Leprosy Overview on WebMD.
As terrifying as it may sound, it is still not okay to shun and reject those who suffer from this disease. Many still treat these people in disgust. We as a social creature should understand more about leprosy. We can hold up a seminar or something that can share our knowledge about leprosy, such as this event! This way, we can share the knowledge about how well we understand about leprosy, how to avoid it, how to treat it, and how to help the people suffered from it. But most importantly, how not to ignore and create stigmas that make distance between us and those who need help.
By reading this, or by knowing slightly more about leprosy, you might not realistically want to perform action to help people right away. If you actually do, then it’s excellent! Otherwise, we can always start helping these people just from the smallest bit of contribution like knowing this disease. Knowing is the best way for a start. We can spread the awareness to many more people about the issues, and start to think the many ways we can hopefully contribute for these people that need help!
Run for Leprosy has been a fun event for me to attend. Frankly, a 5 km run at dawn is very exhausting and tiring for me, and all I got in the very next morning was sore muscles all over my body. Luckily I’m used to walking a long distance, so I might not as hurt as my friends. In the end, it was all worth it. Spending the moment with my friends, as well as receiving some awareness about issues that have been troubling the people, always feels good!