Hansen's Disease (Leprosy)

NewWhat you need to know:

CDC has not issued a travel advisory for Florida, or any other state, due to Hansen’s disease (leprosy).

Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, is very rare in the United States, with less than 200 cases reported per year. Most people with Hansen’s disease in the U.S. became infected in a country where it is more common. In the past, leprosy was feared as a highly contagious, devastating disease, but now we know that it’s hard to spread and it’s easily treatable.

    • Hansen’s disease does not spread easily from person to person. You cannot get leprosy through casual contact such as shaking hands, sitting next to, or talking to someone who has the disease.
    • Prolonged, close contact with someone with untreated Hansen’s disease over many months is needed to become infected. Around 95% of all people cannot become sick because they are naturally immune.
    • Leprosy can be cured with antibiotic treatment. Once someone starts treatment for Hansen’s disease, they can no longer spread the disease to other people.

CDC and the National Hansen’s Disease Program (NHDP) are continuously monitoring for exposures of all reported cases.

Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy) is an infection caused by slow-growing bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. It can affect the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose (nasal mucosa). With early diagnosis and treatment, the disease can be cured. People with Hansen’s disease can continue to work and lead an active life during and after treatment.

Leprosy was once feared as a highly contagious and devastating disease, but now we know it doesn’t spread easily and treatment is very effective. However, if left untreated, the nerve damage can result in crippling of hands and feet, paralysis, and blindness.