Leprosy awareness is coming to elementary schools this summer in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines in an effort to eliminate the stigma and discrimination of this disease.

According to a Philippine Information Agency report, Dr. Joanri Riveral, National Leprosy Control Program Coordinator, said this is a first in the country and they are initiating it here.

Image/Howard the Duck
Image/Howard the Duck

Riveral said they crafted a modular together with DepEd in order to incorporate the topic in their Science subject. This will be introduced to Grades 3, 4 and 6 students.

“Our aim is to spread awareness to the younger ones. Leprosy can be treated and DOH is giving the treatment for free,” Riveral said.

Hansen’s disease, formerly known as leprosy, is caused by Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae ) bacteria. The infection has also been identified in nine-banded armadillos. Approximately 95 percent of people are resistant to infection; people who develop clinical illness can experience a wide range of clinical manifestations, but typically develop infections involving the skin, peripheral nerves and nasal mucosa.

Although the mode of transmission of Hansen’s disease is not clearly defined, most investigators believe that M. leprae is usually spread person-to-person in respiratory droplets following extended close contact with an infected person, such as living in the same household.

Feared as a highly contagious and devastating disease, it is well established that leprosy is not highly transmissible, is very treatable, and with early diagnosis and treatment, is not disabling.

Leprosy  remains the most misunderstood human infectious disease. The stigma long associated with the disease still exists in most of the world and the psychological and social effects may be more difficult to deal with than the actual physical illness.

LISTEN: Richard W. Truman, Ph.D., Chief, Laboratory Research Branch with the National Hansen’s Disease Program discusses Leprosy in the US