Leprosy is a chronic bacterial disease of the skin, nerves in the hands and feet and, in some cases, the lining of the nose. Leprosy is a rare disease in the United States.

Disease Fact Sheet

Disease Facts

Anyone can get leprosy, but children seem to be more susceptible than adults.

It is not clear how the leprosy germ is spread, but household and prolonged close contact is important. The germs probably enter the body through the nose and possibly through broken skin. The germs get in the air through nasal discharge of untreated lepromatous patients.

Tuberculoid leprosy symptoms are a few well-defined skin lesions that are numb. Lepromatous leprosy symptoms are a chronically stuffy nose and many skin lesions and nodules on both sides of the body.

It usually takes about four years for tuberculoid leprosy symptoms to appear and about eight years for lepromatous leprosy symptoms to appear.

In most cases, a person will not infect others after about three months of starting treatment.

There are two medicines that have to be taken once a month for at least two years for patients with lepromatous leprosy. For tuberculoid leprosy, two medicines should be taken once a month for six months.

The best way to prevent the spread of leprosy is the early diagnosis and treatment of people who are infected. For household contacts, immediate and annual examination for at least five years after last contact with a person who is infectious, is recommended.


This material is provided by the South Dakota Department of Health for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical care. We are not able to answer personal medical questions. Please see your health care provider concerning appropriate care, treatment, or other medical advice.

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