Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) Patient Information Fact Sheet

How is leprosy spread?
Leprosy is an airborne disease spread through droplets in the air. When a person with the disease sneezes, coughs, or even talks, droplets with the bacteria are released into the air. The disease is spread when these air droplets are then inhaled by an uninfected person. It is not easy to catch leprosy — over 95% of people are naturally immune to the bacteria, particularly those who live in areas of disease. Contrary to popular belief, the disease is not spread through contact with ulcerations on the limbs of leprosy sufferers.

How is leprosy treated?
The bacteria that cause leprosy have gradually become resistant to single-drug treatments; therefore, the recommended treatment is a combination of drugs (referred to as multidrug therapy or MDT). The infection is treated with combinations of antibiotics such as: dapsone (Aczone), rifampin (Rifadin), clofazimine (Lamprene), ofloxacin (Floxin), and minocycline (Dynacin, Minocin, Myrac) for 6 to 12 months. The inflammation is controlled with prednisone, and thalidomide (Thalomid). It is very important to diagnose this disease early in order to properly treat it.

Further information
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/leprosy/
U.S. National Library of Medicine: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002323/
World Health Organization: www.who.int/lep/en/

Last Reviewed: June 2013