Leprosy is a mildly infectious disease caused by a bacteria, Mycobacterium Leprae. The disease mainly affects the skin and peripheral nerves and if left untreated leprosy can progress and cause permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. Contrary to folklore, leprosy does not cause body parts to fall off, although they can become numb or diseased as a result of secondary infections; these occur as a result of the body’s defenses being compromised by the primary disease.
Every year +/- 30 new leprosy cases are documented in Singapore. But thankfully through timely diagnosis and treatment no more cases of deformity are seen.
The disease has been known since ancient times and fears and myths surrounding the disease have persisted to exist even in the present time. Which is why many ex-leprosy patients were being put out on the street by their family in the old days. Thankfully they can find shelter at the SILRA House (Singapore Leprosy Relief Association).