Leprosy is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. It is not very contagious and it has long incubation period. It is difficult to transmit and spread this disease. When a person becomes infected, it takes several years before the symptoms become noticeable.
The Mycobacterium leprae bacteria are slow acting bacteria and they multiply very slowly once they are in the human body. That is one of the reasons why it is difficult to determine when and how a person got infected by this disease.
Prolonged close contact and transmission by nasal droplets are considered to be the methods of transmission; however both are not proven scientifically. It is a fact that all people who get infected with the bacteria do not develop leprosy. It is estimated that due to genetic reasons only 5 percent of the population is susceptible to leprosy. The human body is generally immune to these bacteria.
Even though the mode of transmission of this disease is not certain, it is believed that the disease spreads through respiratory droplets expelled from nose and mouth of infected person and breathed in by uninfected person. It does not get transmitted through human touch. Casual and short term contact does not cause this disease to spread. Health care workers continue to work with leprosy patients for years without getting infected by the disease.
As this disease is not very contagious, the risk of spreading through contact is extreme low. The untreated lepromatous form alone is contagious. Once treatment has begun, the disease can not spread. To avoid getting infected one should avoid contact with bodily fluids and rash of infected people. BCG vaccine is known to provide protection against leprosy.
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