Leprosy - What is it?

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Tzaraath. The Big Disease. Mycobacterium leprae. Hansen's disease. This worldwide terror has many titles, but they all mean the same thing.


This simple name, derived from the Greek word for 'fish scales', has struck fear into the hearts and minds of mankind since Biblical times - 600 B.C. To this day, the word 'leprosy', or 'leper', simply has to be mentioned; as soon as we hear it, conjured images of rotting flesh and decaying limbs plague our thoughts. The chronic disease has scarred the world, not only through the physical deformities of its unwilling victims, but through our culture, religion, and the arts. Those who carried it are shunned by society, and in the Bible, it was equated with sin:

"And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and the hair of his head shall go loose, and he shall cover his upper lilp, and shall cry, unclean, unclean. And all the days wherein the plague is in him he shall be unclean; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his dwelling be."

Those who had caught the disease, called lepers, were secluded and barred from society; others feared that simply touching them would transmit the disease. Because this meant no physical or social contact, lepers suffered both from the disease and from the terrible solitude it instigated. Even today, the phrase "treated like a leper" betrays the fear it heralds.

It is only fairly recently that the disease that had been rendered as untreatable has been fought against. In this day in age, the few unlucky victims who contract leprosy have a much better chance of living a normal life, and many can stop the disease before it even affects them permanently. But even still, leprosy continues to be one of the most feared diseases around the world. No other calamity has other been so abhorred.

Leprosy has been here since the dawn of man, and still it has thousands in its grip. We, the new generation of the world, are the ones who have the power to stop it. But to overcome something, you must know it.

What does that mean? It's time to learn what leprosy
really is.


Leprosy Index:

- Leprosy - A Brief History
- Types of Leprosy
- Leprosy-Symptoms

- Leprosy - Myths vs. Facts
- Leprosy - A Cure?
- Leprosy - Works Cited