Faqs About Hansen's Disease
Reports of two children possibly having Hansen's disease has sent parents searching for more information. The disease is a rare condition that is treatable. If you have a school-age child, here is what you need to know about the disease and its treatment.
What Is Hansen's Disease?
Hansen's disease, or leprosy, results from a bacterial infection. The disease can be spread from person-to-person, such as through inhaling droplets after someone infected with the disease sneezes. Due to the close proximity of children to each other in school and less than perfect hygienic habits, it is more likely to occur in children than adults.
There are various symptoms associated with Hansen's disease, including skin lesions. Some people can suffer pain, numbness, and muscle weakness. Other symptoms can include visual problems and ulcers on the feet.
How Is Hansen's Disease Treated?
Hansen's disease is curable. Since the disease is caused by an infection, the first course of treatment is usually antibiotics. The time it takes a person to recover from the disease can vary. The more severe the condition is, the longer it takes to properly recover.
Muscle weakness from the disease is the result of nerve damage caused by the infection. To treat the nerve damage, steroids are often given.
Getting treatment as early as possible is important. Complications from the disease can cause a range of problems, including kidney failure, facial disfiguration, and permanent nerve damage.
How Can You Protect Your Child?
Although the risk of contracting Hansen's disease is low, it is important that you take measures to protect your child. One of the most effective means of protection is education. Talk to your child about basic hygiene. For instance, discuss handwashing, covering the mouth and nose while sneezing, and avoiding contact with body fluids from others. Make sure your child knows to wash immediately if a classmate sneezes or coughs on him or her.
If a child in your child's school has been diagnosed with Hansen's disease, have your child checked out by his or her pediatrician. Examinations can help detect the disease in its earliest stages. Following the initial examination, your child's pediatrician will determine a follow-up schedule to ensure there are no signs of the disease.
Consult with your child's pediatricians to learn other ways to protect him or her from contracting Hansen's disease. If your child has any symptoms of the disease, contact the pediatrician immediately.