January 31st: World Leprosy Day – History and Background
World Leprosy Day aims to spread awareness about the facts regarding the disease Leprosy and eliminating the myths.
Leprosy is a chronic or progressive bacterial infection, which is also known as Hansen’s Disease. It is an infectious disease that causes severe nerve damage in the arms, legs, and any skin area all over the body. Various myths are associated with leprosy that needs to be cleared out. Every year, on the last Sunday of January, World Leprosy Day is observed. This day is taken as an opportunity to spread awareness about leprosy and its medical complications.
History and Background
This disease was earlier known as Leprosy, however, it was renamed as Hansen’s disease after the scientist, Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen, who discovered the cause of the illness. The slow-growing Mycobacterium leprae was the cause of this disease. Despite the fact of it being officially renamed, people still call it Leprosy.
There are various myths related to Leprosy like fingers or toes fall off, it is very contagious, it is caused by a curse or a sin and the list goes on. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has said that none of these statements is true. According to CDC, leprosy is very hard to get and almost 95% of the adults won’t get affected to it as the immune system fights it.
World Leprosy Day was established way back in 1954 with the goal of teaching people that this ancient disease is now curable. It was started by a French philanthropist, Raoul Follereau. He chose the last Sunday of January as it was close to the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. With this being said, Gandhi was known to have strong compassion for those with leprosy.
Observing World Leprosy Day
To start off, it is very important that people are completely aware of the disease. It is also vital that people are educated with the appropriate causes and effects of this disease. If you yourself do not know the details of this disease, then today is the day to find out and educate the people around you as well. Donate to an organization that spreads awareness for leprosy.