How contagious is leprosy?
November 11, 2006 1:12 PM   Subscribe

How contagious is leprosy?

I had to investigate a crash that involved a driver from Africa who had a prescription for a medication for leprosy in his vehicle. There was some blood in the vehicle but I don't think I touched it. I, stupidly, forgot to don rubber gloves. I was not able to wash up for about 2 hours after the investigation. How contagious is Leprosy?
posted by Kensational to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It is one of the least contagious infectious diseases known. The average time of continuous exposure before infection is estimated to be about 10 years. Father Damien worked with patients for about 30 years before he contracted it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:17 PM on November 11, 2006

Merck says:

Casual and short-term contact do not seem to spread the disease. Leprosy cannot be contracted by simply touching someone with the disease, as is commonly believed. Health care workers often work for many years with people who have leprosy without contracting the disease. ... About 95% of people who are exposed to Mycobacterium leprae do not develop leprosy because their immune system fights off the infection. ...

Leprosy is contagious only in the untreated lepromatous form, and even then the disease is not easily transmitted to others. Once treatment has begun, the disease cannot be passed to others. Furthermore, most people are naturally immune to leprosy, and only those who have close, long-term contact with an infected person are at risk of developing an infection
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 1:19 PM on November 11, 2006

"However, leprosy is not very contagious; approximately 95% of people have natural immunity to the disease."

"The good news is that leprosy is curable. In 1981, the World Health Organization recommended the use of a combination of three antibiotics--dapsone, rifampin, and clofazimine--for treatment, which takes six months to a year or more."

- From the page
posted by davidmsc at 1:19 PM on November 11, 2006

You should, of course, go to a doctor.
posted by Arcaz Ino at 1:37 PM on November 11, 2006

Think of it as more of an interesting tidbit for parties.

"Oh, I had leprosy. No big deal, my immune system took care of it."
posted by blue_beetle at 2:18 PM on November 11, 2006

Well it really depends what type of leprosy you're talking about. There's two kinds: tuberculoid and lepramatous. Lepramatous is probably what people think of when they hear about leprosy. That's the one that causes a decrease of cutaneous nervous sensation and subsequent lesions and abscesses on people's face etc. Tuberculoid ends up being mostly controlled by your body's cellular immune system (T-cells and all that). Your best bet is to talk to your doctor and describe exactly what you touched, what you believe was touched by the person involved with the accident, and anything you remember about the specifics (name/dosage) of the medication that was found.

However, my guy reaction is that you'll be fine... Just let your doctor know that you were exposed to it, and since it's got such a low chance of transmission/infection, you're most likely okay.
posted by ruwan at 3:09 PM on November 11, 2006

Not to wrack your nerves even more, but other blood- and body-fluid-borne nasties are much more contagious (and less treatable/curable) than leprosy - namely, HIV and hepatitis. You might want to get checked for those as well...
posted by rtha at 3:32 PM on November 11, 2006

According to the House episode "Leprosy is very hard to catch, look at the wife, she didn't catch it in all those years"

What? Thats proof! Hello??..:)
posted by lundman at 4:47 PM on November 11, 2006

FWIW I second rtha in saying if you came in contact with blood you may have other things besides Hanson's disease to worry about. WEAR your gloves. but you already know that. Don't forget.
posted by edgeways at 4:56 PM on November 11, 2006

nthing what rtha says. I was a passerby at the scene of a car crash a few years ago, and in spite of my efforts got blood on my hands. My doc tested me for the hepatitises and, I seem to remember, syphilis, strangely.
posted by poissonrouge at 12:48 AM on November 13, 2006

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