Number of new leprosy cases doubled in Spain in a year

by Lorraine Williamson
leprosy cases on the increase

Despite the fact that many think old-fashioned diseasessuch as leprosy no longer occur, the opposite appears to be true. In 2022, the number of new leprosy cases in Spain has even more than doubled compared to a year ago. Furthermore, leprosy is most common in these Spanish regions. 

Four new cases of leprosy were diagnosed in 2021, compared to ten last year. In Spain there were already nine leprosy patients before 2022, bringing the total number to nineteen at the beginning of 2023. The numbers of this infectious disease are kept in the national leprosy register of the health institute Carlos III in Madrid. Looking at the regions in Spain, the Balearic Islands and Asturias have the most cases of leprosy. 

WHO sees link between leprosy and corona pandemic 

The number of leprosy cases has increased in recent years, not only in Spain. The World Health Organisation reports that 140,594 cases of leprosy have been reported in 2021, compared to 128,405 cases the year before. These are the figures of 143 countries added together. The WHO therefore claims that the rise of leprosy is directly related to the corona pandemic. 

During the pandemic, all prevention campaigns and treatments were stopped due to the global emergency. As a result, more people are now being diagnosed with leprosy, but also with other ‘older infectious diseases’. 

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What is leprosy and can patients be cured? 

Leprosy is a contagious infectious disease caused by a bacteria. Leprosy can lead to serious deformities of the hands, feet and face, among other things. Worldwide, the disease mainly occurs among poorer populations. Consequently, in most developed countries, leprosy is an imported disease. 

Leprosy is an infectious disease. The disease is transmitted through the respiratory tract by droplets released when coughing or sneezing. The leprosy bacteria feels best at a temperature of 34 degrees Celsius and therefore seeks out the cooler parts of the human body. Leprosy has been completely cured thanks to treatment since 1982. Once a patient has been diagnosed with leprosy, he is given multi-drug therapy (MDT). This is a cocktail of antibiotics that must be taken daily for a long period of time. 

It is very important that the leprosy patient starts medication as early as possible and completes the course. The medication kills the leprosy bacteria and stops the infection. Then, after a few days, the leprosy patient is no longer contagious. 

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