It was confirmed this past Tuesday that an inmate at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution in Chillicothe, OH has been diagnosed with the bacterial infection, leprosy, or Hansen’s Disease.
According to the Associated Press, the unnamed inmate, who has been in the prison system since January 2011, is from Micronesia, and officials believe he contracted the infection there. He is currently being treated at the Ohio State University hospital.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections says the prisoner has been housed in three other prisons during his time.
Although no inmates or prison staff have showed symptoms of leprosy, Stuart Hudson, chief of medical services for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said all inmates who came within a 3-foot radius of the man will be screened for signs of the infectious disease, Medical Daily reports.
Related: Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) In Mississippi: Report
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, an acid-fast, rod-shaped bacillus. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and also the eyes.
Official figures show that almost 182,000 people, mainly in Asia and Africa, were affected at the beginning of 2012, with approximately 219,000 new cases reported during 2011.
M. leprae multiplies very slowly and the incubation period of the disease is about five years. Symptoms can take as long as 20 years to appear.
Leprosy is not highly infectious. It is transmitted via droplets, from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contacts with untreated cases.
Untreated, leprosy can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes.
Early diagnosis and treatment with multidrug therapy (MDT) remain the key elements in eliminating the disease as a public health concern.
Leprosy is curable and treatment provided in the early stages averts disability.
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