Concerned parents in Jurupa Valley, California are demanding more concrete information concerning letters that were sent home to parents saying two students at Indian Hills Elementary may be sick with leprosy.

The scare prompted some parents to keep their children home on Tuesday.

The director of disease control for Riverside County, Barbara Cole, said a school nurse notified the health department of the possible cases on Friday, but it could take weeks to get confirmatory tests results back.


The Riverside County Health Department did put up a link for Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Frequently Asked Questions on their website.

How concerned should parents be?

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.

175 new cases were reported in the U.S. in 2014 (the most recent year for which data are available). Most (128 or 73%) of these new cases were reported in Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, New York and Texas.

LISTEN: Leprosy: An interview with Dr Richard Truman