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Published On: Sun, Sep 8th, 2013

Guam reports increase in leprosy in 2013

The Guam Department of Public Health (GDPH) is reporting an increase in the bacterial disease, leprosy in 2013, the Pacific News Center reports.

Guam Image/CIA

Guam
Image/CIA

The US territory, which is leprosy endemic, reports about five cases of leprosy annually; however, from Jan. to Sept. 2013, there has been 15 cases.

Health officials in Guam do not consider this an outbreak; however, Tuberculosis and Hansen’s disease Program Manager, Cecilia Arciaga says there are a lot of undiagnosed cases.

Although leprosy affects all ages, the age group most affected on Guam is between 25 to 44 years old. 72% of diagnosed cases are also male. Current statistics also show 94% of all diagnosed cases on Guam are people that descended from the Freely Associated States of Micronesia.

According to the World Health Organization, Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, an acid-fast, rod-shaped bacillus. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and also the eyes.

Leprosy is curable and treatment provided in the early stages averts disability as Arciaga points out, “For a single patch of leprosy, it can be cured as short as short as 6 months. And for multibacillary type of leprosy, you can be treated for only up to a year and you’re considered cured.”

Arciaga adds early diagnosis and multidrug treatment is the key to wipe out the disease. If left untreated, leprosy can cause deformities and permanent damage to a person’s nerves, limbs, eyes and skin.

Official figures show that almost 182 000 people, mainly in Asia and Africa, were affected at the beginning of 2012, with approximately 219 000 new cases reported during 2011.

M. leprae multiplies very slowly and the incubation period of the disease is about five years. Symptoms can take as long as 20 years to appear. Leprosy is not highly infectious. It is transmitted via droplets, from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contacts with untreated cases.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. Alan says:

    I don’t think Guam can technically be considered leporsy endemic since the majority of the people who have leporsy on Guam are not actually from Guam they are from other pacific islands.
    Just because Guam at one point was a leporsy colony does not make it endemic.
    There is the odd case, but it doesn’t mean it’s endemic.

    There is a graph that your article omitted that shows within the native population of Guam only about 1 person had leporsy. 1 out of 170,000 does not make a place endemic.

    Also Guam is not a country it is a territory of the US.
    Saying Guam is an Island country is kind of embarrassing and shows shoddy reporting.

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