Frequently Asked Questions

about leprosy and more

Leprosy still exists. In fact, every two minutes, one person in the world is diagnosed.

Myth: Leprosy no longer exists in our world today.

Fact: The oldest disease known to man is still around today. While most high-income countries are almost completely free of leprosy, the disease still exists in large pockets around the globe. The largest number of cases are found in Asia, Africa, and South America. Around 200,000 people are diagnosed with the disease every year and millions more live with the consequences.

Some countries claim leprosy has been “eliminated” but this just means the number of cases reported and recorded by their government is under 1 case per every 10,000 people (0.01%). Elimination is not eradication.

More info: This information relies on cases being reported and recorded accurately. There is evidence to suggestion in India, for example, that there are “millions” of cases “missing” from the official statistics because these people have not been found or treated or recorded. Refer to: The Missing Millions A Threat to the Elimination of Leprosy 2015.pdf

Myth: Leprosy is incurable.

Fact: Leprosy is curable with treatment known as Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT).

Yes. Leprosy is mildly contagious. But within 24 -48 hours of starting Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT) the patient is no longer infectious and cannot pass the disease on to others. More info, if required: The Leprosy Mission often also conducts “contract tracing” activities to find the patient’s family members, friends, colleagues who may have been exposed to leprosy, testing them for leprosy and possibly providing then with an anti-leprosy medication (rifampicin) which may help prevent infection.

Myth: You shouldn’t touch anyone with leprosy because it’s highly contagious.

Fact: Leprosy is only a mildly infectious disease that 95 percent of the world’s population is already immune to. Leprosy is not easily transmitted and those affected by it are not “untouchable”. Once a person has received Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT) for 72 hours, they are no longer infectious.

It is thought that leprosy is caught through close direct and prolonged contact with a person infected with leprosy. Most likely through the water droplets of the nose, eyes and mouth (via coughing and sneezing). We are still investigating.

More info: That’s why The Leprosy Mission is investing in and conducting research – so we can stop this disease at the cause and make leprosy a thing of the past.

Myth: Leprosy is a curse, the result of sin, or punishment from God.

Fact: Leprosy is simply a bacterial infection transmitted from the environment or an individual. It does not discriminate based on race, gender, class, age, or religion. It has nothing to do with curses or sin.

There are millions of people across the world still living with the effects of leprosy, however, there are only two kinds of leprosy patients currently officially reported:

a) Number of registered cases – i.e. those undertaking Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT) treatment for leprosy in that year (circled below in red) 

b) Number of new cases diagnosed in that year (circled below in green) According the latest statistics released by The Word Health Organisation (WHO):

WHO Leprosy Statistics 2018

In Australia & in the countries TLMA supports:

WHO Leprosy Statistics 2018


Myth: Only poor people get leprosy.

Fact: Leprosy affects individuals with weakened immune systems. The disease often spreads in poorer areas due to poor sanitation and nutrition, but it all depends on a person’s predisposition and the state of their immune system. It can affect the wealthy as well as the poor.


Myth: Leprosy makes bits of your body fall off.

Fact: The disease itself does not cause parts of the body to fall off; however, severe inflammatory reactions caused by untreated cuts can lead to amputation.