Monday, December 18, 2017

(LML) Fear from leprosy and lepraphobia

Leprosy Mailing List – December 18,  2017

Ref.:    (LML) Fear from leprosy and lepraphobia

From:  P. Vijayakumaran, Vellore, India


Dear Dr Schreuder and readers of LML,


Greetings from Vellore, India.


Thank you for the letter from Mathias Duck (LML, 15-12-2017). Fear about Leprosy (Lepraphobia) is an interesting phenomenon. I had come across this many times during my leprosy work for 35 years. It seems to be common among educated group especially from urban situation who happened to have some information on leprosy. I give narration of few incidences of my experience.


A mother (Medical Doctor) brought her child of about 7 years. Following was the information given to me by the mother. The child had some vague tingling sensation in the right hand of few months duration. She consulted many people and ultimately a dermatologist did nerve conduction test which showed minor changes. It was diagnosed as leprosy. Mother wanted a second opinion and somehow traced our organisation working in leprosy. I examined the child and could not find any clinical evidence of leprosy. I called reconstructive surgeon from my organisation for his opinion. He also gave the same feedback (no leprosy). We both reassured the mother and bring the child for review after 3 months. She never returned. We don't know what exactly happened later.


The leprosy institutions, where I worked organised training programmes on leprosy for doctors and medical students regularly. We used to have few trainees approaching us invariably at the end of the training programme with some vague skin lesions. They seemed to be worried whether it could be leprosy. We used to examine and ask them to diagnose giving them our findings. They themselves would say that there was no sign of leprosy.


The leprosy institution where we worked formed District Support Teams to assist leprosy work in selected provinces in India. When the team members started examining leprosy affected, the local staff got a shock of their lives. Sometime later they got motivated and started examining leprosy affected. These people were also surprised to know that the support team members had been doing this for many decades.


People from my known circle (friends and relatives) openly asked me whether I was not afraid to work in leprosy for so many years or decades. I used to inform them the following facts.

§  I had to seat a person with advanced leprosy (LL) in a jeep and travel 90 km to take him/her to the hospital many times. But I never got leprosy.

§  We the leprosy workers (medical and para-medical) move with them for decades. But none of us developed leprosy.

§  We lived in a campus where leprosy hospital and living space for the staff (including the family) were adjacent.

§  Our milkman was leprosy affected person with disability. Our gardener was leprosy affected person with disability. Many staff members were leprosy affected persons with disability.

§  Our children played everywhere including the hospital settings. But none of them were affected.


So these kinds of leprophobia do exist. We the leprosy workers should try to educate the people.


Thank you for the opportunity to share my experiences.



Consultant Leprologist (Independent),

Vellore, Tamilnadu, India


Let us create a world without leprosy.

LML - S Deepak, B Naafs, S Noto and P Schreuder

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Contact: Dr Pieter Schreuder <<

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