(HealthDay News) — Leprosy, although quite rare, continues to appear in the United States, according to research published in the October 31 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Approximately 100 new cases are reported in the United States each year, researchers at the CDC said. That compares to about 250,000 cases that occurred worldwide in 2008, according to the CDC. According to the report, from 1994–2011, there were 2,323 new cases of leprosy (Hansen’s disease) diagnosed in the United States.
The yearly incidence rate of leprosy from 1994–1996 was 0.52 cases per one million people in the United States. From 2009–2011, that rate dropped to 0.43 cases per one million people, the researchers found. The rate for people born abroad is 14 times higher than that of those born in the United States, with the highest rate among those born in the South Pacific who traveled to Hawaii.
“It’s a surprise to most people that leprosy is still in the United States,” lead researcher Leisha Nolen, MD, PhD, an epidemic intelligence service officer with the CDC, told HealthDay. “Many people think leprosy is something limited to underdeveloped nations and has been eliminated from the United States,” she said. Leprosy does infect a few people born in the United States – about 20 to 40 a year – but is mostly a problem for people born outside the country who were infected before arriving here, Nolen added.