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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Beyond fear and loathing

Beyond fear and loathing

LEPROSY, a chronic, infectious disease, is caused by a bacillus that affects the

skin, eyes, peripheral nerves, and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract.

Spread through close contact with an infected person, the leprosy bacilli are generally

killed by the body's natural immune responses after exposure.

Only about 5 percent of those people exposed to the leprosy bacillus develop symptoms

of the disease - after a three-to-five-year incubation period.

Leprosy has been a medical scourge throughout recorded history. The first effective

treatment became available in the 1940s, but the bacilli eventually became resistant

to the drug therapy.

In the early 1980s an inexpensive, highly effective multi-drug therapy was introduced

and now there is real hope that leprosy will one day be eradicated.

In 1984 the Cambodian Ministry of Health established the National Leprosy Elimination

Program, and by 1996 it had nearly achieved nationwide coverage.

With the prevalency of leprosy decreasing, the program will now put more focus on

treatment and rehabilitation programs for those disabled by the disease.

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