DEVASTATING ILLNESS RULES WHERE LIGHT OF THE SCIENCE CANNOT REACH
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
Author: Mother Teresa
The Hansen’s disease or Leprosy is not only scary microbe from our medical history but the reality today. It still happens somewhere and somehow in spite of all advantages of our modern advanced world. When we recall our memories and fears from the past, we can feel the tragedy which had happened to each of those who suffered from Leprosy and the way they have been expelled from the society. They were marked us dangerous and contagious, evil and responsible for sins. They paid the price of the rigid religion time and absence of the common sense. Not all of them died from the pathogen ride through their bodies, the vast majority has been dead at the moment they were sent to hell before they even have known what is really happening. Tha mankind is very cruel and in the age of survival race, the cruelest usually have all power they need. The same was with Leprosy, which has only shown to the people that not all humans are human. Some of them are everything but not humans and not human.
What we actually know about this legendary disease except the fact that is long-term infection caused by two types of bacteria: Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis, which usually hits the nerves,respiratory tract, skin and eyes?! This disease is very well known to the scientists as one silent enemy because the development of symptoms and incubation period can last from 5 to 20 years. In other words, the development of illness goes from within and latent so the patient usually do not pay attention to the symptoms or replace them with another and simply forget. After some time, the cure is impossible and the patient is disabled because the final signature of Hansen’s disease is inability to feel the pain and lost of some of the extremities. CDC has a list of symptoms:“The disease can cause:Skin lesions that may be faded/discolored; growths on the skin;thick, stiff or dry skin; severe pain; numbness on affected areas of the skin;muscle weakness or paralysis (especially in the hands and feet);Eye problems that may lead to blindness;Enlarged nerves (especially those around the elbow and knee);a stuffy nose;nosebleeds;Ulcers on the soles of feet.”
The bacteria has been active during the evolution of our civilization and it has be described in many holy books and old medical notes. It is said that Hippocrates in 460 BC has debated about the something which could be leprosy but there are definitely the information the states that English translation of Holy Bible comes out with the term ” tzaraath” which is Hansen’s disease as we know. Indian text The Atharava Veda and The Laws of Manu also have talked about the leprosy even in 1500 and 2000 BC. The Middle ages are also famous as times of Leprosy and the torture of those who were sick from leprosy. We shouldn’t ever forget the agony of being thrown away of the community and punished to wear special clothes or the bell what symbolizes the coming of leper. The middle aged mentality was poisoned with religious fanaticism so doesn’t surprise the whole atmosphere of neglecting the people who were damaged by this bacteria. The disease almost was a moral stigma and the treatment was limited by the community portrait of those who suffer from it. The colony of leprosy has not been only the medical resolution and epidemical step but the distance from the God’s anger and and made up “Pontius Pilat’s innocence” in the blood.
We are aware that the leprosy is curable with multidrug therapy (MDT),a combination of three antibiotics: rifampin, clofazimine and dapsone.and according to the WHO:”Although not highly infectious, leprosy is transmitted via droplets, from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contacts with untreated cases.Untreated, leprosy can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes.Multidrug therapy (MDT) treatment has been made available by WHO free of charge to all patients worldwide since 1995. It provides a simple yet highly effective cure for all types of leprosy.Elimination of leprosy as public health problem (with a prevalence less than 1 case per 10 000 persons) was achieved globally in the year 2000. More than 16 million leprosy patients have been treated with MDT over the past 20 years.Official figures from 138 countries from 6 WHO regions show the global registered prevalence of leprosy to be at 176 176 cases at the end of 2015. During the same year, 211 973 new cases were reported.Detection of all cases in a community and completion of MDT treatment were the basic tenets of the “Enhanced Global Strategy for Further Reducing Disease Burden Due to Leprosy” (2011–2015).” This strategy has a goal to eradicate the leprosy worldwide and to encourage people to be more knowledgeable about the disease so they can prevent it or cure it on time.
The main problem is lack of medical support in the endemic places where the disease occurs. The latest studies show that the leprosy is still present in the U.S. where the majority of those who have it live in the rural places or mainly in the direct contact with the potential vector and host of the bacteria: armoured mammals, especially Armadillos. Habitat of these animals is located in the southern part of the U.S., as Texas but they were also seen in the Florida. CDC reported that about 1-2 million people worldwide have been disabled by leprosy and because they haven’t been cured on time. This applies on the countries with lack of proper health care like Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania and Nepal but unfortunately cases are recorded in the highly developed countries too. In America it is about 6,500 people who have this Biblical illness but they haven’t been born in America which means they have brought the bacteria with during the immigration in. The 95% of population is immune on this disease and the information from September of this year that some California children are infected with leprosy does not make a big health concern. Each year, U.S. has new 150 cases of leprosy but they are all very well treated. The goal is on the right time diagnosis and the beginning of the curement so the disease then has no big chance.
Calling the patient who suffers from this disease a leper is simply something which must be eliminated from the medical and public vocabulary because it brings up a lot of horrible memories from the past and based on modern world’s achievements, the disease can be stopped and controlled so there is no necessity for social condemn or labels. The isolated peninsula attached to Hawaii, known as Kalaupapa has been the famous leprosy colony since 1860 where about 8,000 Native Hawaiian were removed there because of the bite of Hansen’s disease. The journal “Atlantic” wrote that based on 2015 statistics, the last sixteen of those who suffer from leprosy are still alive. Some of them are between 73 and 92 years old and easily they will be all gone together with their memories about the time when they have been exiled from the urban world into the shadows, alone and stigmatized. Their story is not the only one. All leprosy colonies have that timeless stempel , the color of never ending suffering, the sign of human cruelty, the mark of being condemned, cursed and unwanted. The disease has not been the problem for the patients but for the society which has not been able to deal with the pressure of unknown. They have been expelled and forgotten and their faces became faceless even for their own families. However, human hearts can find comfort in the darkest moments and that is a strength of a spirit. The hunted and haunted people who were suffering from Hansen’s disease have found their own peace in some of the most beautiful islands. They were a new family, united in pain and loneliness, isolation and anger, love and serenity. They embraced each others and it is fascinating that many of them have had happier lives and stronger friendships than people without bacteria but with cold and empty hearts. The amazing love stories from those who were disfigured as people but awarded as deeply emotional human beings. Their beauty has never faded away because it was eternal.
We all live together in the world which constantly challenges our scientific possibilities but also provokes our moral credibility. Before we label anyone else for being sick we must keep in mind that micro universe has no preferences and that each of us, beautiful or not, smart or not, rich or not, can be a victim, a patient, a marked, unwanted and exiled. We must overcome the fears of unknown, mythological dramas and the strategies of medicine must prevail over human unlimited ignorance and prejudices. The sick from leprosy is just a patient, the one who really suffers is one who has no empathy.