Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, an acid-fast, rod-shaped bacillus. Leprosy mainly affects the skin, peripheral nerves, eyes, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and other structures. Depending on the bacillary load, the disease can be classified as either paucibacillary or multibacillary. M. leprae multiplies very slowly and the incubation period of the disease varies from 9 months to 20 years, with an average of about five years. Leprosy is not highly infectious. It is transmitted via droplets from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contacts with untreated cases. Leprosy is curable and treatment provided in the early stages considerably reduces the chances of disability. Today, the diagnosis and treatment of leprosy is easy and most endemic countries are striving to fully integrate leprosy services into existing general health services. This is especially important for those under-served and marginalized communities most at risk from leprosy, often the poorest of the poor.
PAHO/WHO Scientific and Technical Material
- Lepra en la Región de las Américas, 2013 (Spanish only)
- Weekly epidemiological record. Global leprosy update, 2013; reducing disease burden; 2014
PAHO/WHO Communication Materials
PAHO/WHO Mandates and Strategies
- Action plan to further advance towards leprosy elimination in Latin America and the Caribbean; 2011
- 65/215. Elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members; 2010