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New Challenge: Leprosy in America

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With the increase of immigrants from Mexico and other third world nations, leprosy has now become a concern to health officials in the United States. Cases of the ancient disease, in its early stages, are often misdiagnosed by doctors as eczema or diabetes. Add to the problem that the medical profession has "very little experience in treating the disease."

Ben Whitford, in Leprosy in America: New Causes of Concern, estimates that an average of 130 cases are identified each year among immigrants. And now a connection to HIV patients is baffling doctors and scientists. Those treated with antiretroviral drugs for AIDS are developing the leprosy, and the cause is unknown.

Leprosy has plagued the human race since ancient times, and until recently the treatment consisted of isolation from the rest of the world. In the 1940s, a therapy was discovered to stop the progression of the disease, but the physical damage remained. Yahoo! News reports that there are now treatments which cure leprosy in the early stages, but unless doctors learn to recognize the disease, the cure is ineffective.

The challenges of leprosy in America are many, but as in everything, education is the answer. The difficulty in convincing people of the problem might be the greatest hurdle, as who would think in modern times that leprosy, the scourge of ancient times, would be a concern in America?

April 29, 2011