Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hanseníase (vs Leprosy) in Brazil

Today is World Leprosy Day, observed on the last Sunday in January. The Guardian is featuring a must-see 7-minute video special on Leprosy in Brazil.

I found this particularly interesting, since I just recently noted the possibility of contracting leprosy from armadillo meat.

I remember thinking that I had never heard of the term "leper" aka leproso (pronounced: "leh-PRDOH-zoh) or "leprosy" anytime in the past 7 years, in a city that is the hub for most major medical treatment in the state. Although, when I had looked it up on Wikipedia and saw the photo of a man with leprosy, I recalled seeing people with this "skin condition" a few times in Goiania I thought that perhaps it's a nonissue (possibly all but eradicated), and I'd just happened to come across a rare case or two.


Apparently, "leprosy" aka lepra (pronounced: "leh-prduh") is a term that most people don't find all that endearing or attractive, so in the 1970s Brazil started to call it by another name, officially changing the term in the '90s to "hanseníase" (pronounced: "hahn-sah-NEE-uhz[ee]").

Hmm... That I've heard before.

According to Marco Collovati, one of the experts in this report who weighed in on this issue, Brazil is #2 in the world behind India, in the number of new cases per year (30,000), but #1 in the number of new cases with permanent (life-altering) damage.

This is attributed to the fact that doctors don't call it by what it is, there is little to no awareness, and it is treated as a minor skin condition, as opposed to a treatable disease that can be cured. Like any serious disease with a cure, the earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome will be.

Marco Collovati is the director of Orangelife, a company that produces rapid medical tests to diagnose illnesses, that is working hard to turn the tide in Brazil, advocating for awareness alongside the other featured authority on the subject, Artur Custodio, the national coordinator for MORHAN (The Movement for Reintegration of People Affected by Hanseníase).

As they point out, leprosy remains a taboo subject because no one wants to acknowledge the issue. There is no political, social or economic benefit for the powers that be to address it, so people suffering from the disease are usually so far advanced that they are then forced to live in leper colonies: a 3,000-year-old custom being practiced in modern-day Brazil.

Please visit the link to the video for an informative and heartbreaking look at this hidden tragedy.

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