Leprosy is an ancient disease, perhaps most famously noted in the Bible and experienced by ancient civilizations that, sadly, knew of no means to halt or cure this chronic condition. Many people who contracted the illness were forced to live outside of communities and away from their families. Cases of chronic leprosy have drastically diminished due to the quality and availability of treatments; however, it would be a mistake to think that this disease no longer occurs; as cases still occur all over the globe.
The bacterium Mycobacterium leprae spreads leprosy. The condition is contagious, but not as easily contracted as the ancients believed. Untreated individuals can spread the bacteria via droplets from the nose and mouth. The ancients understood the contagious nature of the disease, but not its mechanism. A person is five times more likely to contract the illness than another member of the population if they come into contact with someone with leprosy.
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