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leprosy hansen's disease

Jun 24, 2022

Immigration and Health

How Hansen's Disease (Leprosy) Affects the Immigration Medical Exam

Hansen's disease, often known as leprosy, is an infectious, chronic bacterial illness that mostly affects the skin and peripheral nerves. The condition is characterized by certain skin lesions. It is one of the oldest diseases in recorded history. If not treated, it can result in severe deformity and substantial impairment. As a result, the CDC has outlined strict regulations for examining immigrants for Hansen's disease.

How Is Hansen’s Disease Linked to Immigrants?

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 200,000 cases of leprosy are detected annually worldwide. However, in the United States, only 150 to 250 cases are diagnosed each year, with immigrants accounting for nearly all of the cases. Most South Asian, South African, and South American countries have had more than 1,000 cases detected yearly. The United States has many immigrants from these regions every year, resulting in an increased risk of Hansen’s disease entering the country.

How Is Leprosy Transmitted?

The bacteria Mycobacterium leprae cause Hansen’s disease. It is believed that Hansen's disease spreads by contact with infected people's mucosal secretions. When a person with Hansen's disease sneezes or coughs, it spreads.

However, the sickness is not terribly infectious. Close, frequent contact with an untreated person over an extended length of time, on the other hand, can result in Hansen's disease.

There have also been questions regarding armadillos in connection with Hansen’s disease. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, some armadillos in the southern United States are naturally infected with the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, and it is plausible that they could spread it to humans. However, the danger is extremely low.

Who Is at Risk?

Hansen's disease is rare in the United States. However, up to 2 million individuals worldwide are permanently affected by this condition.

Overall, the probability of contracting Hansen's disease for any adult anywhere around the globe is quite low. This is due to the fact that more than 95% of all people have natural immunity against the disease.

If you reside in a place where the illness is prevalent, you may be in danger. Between 2011 and 2015, the following countries reported more than 1,000 new cases of Hansen's disease to WHO:

  • Africa: Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, United Republic of Tanzania
  • Asia: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka
  • Americas: Brazil

You may also be at risk if you are in close contact with persons who have untreated Hansen's disease for an extended period of time. However, after they begin therapy, they can no longer spread the bacteria.

If you want to learn more about Hansen’s disease and its effect on your immigration exam, contact us today. Dr. Gordon will take care of your immigration medical exam and help treat if any such health condition is diagnosed.

Also Read: What You Can Expect During Your Visit With Us for Immigration Medical Exam

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