An outbreak of leprosy can quickly hit homeless people in the US, a doctor has warned.
Dr. Marc Siegel, from Langone Health at New York University, fears that it is only a matter of time before the bacterial disease strikes.
He pointed to Los Angeles County as particularly dangerous, with nearly 60,000 people sleeping roughly in the area.
Although leprosy is not particularly contagious, the combination of poor hygiene, a lack of shelter and inaccessible medical treatment for homeless people creates a & # 39; perfect boiler & # 39; for the disease, said Dr. Siegel.
Left untreated, the infection can cause blindness or permanent disability – a & # 39; sure recipe for immediate public panic & # 39 ;.
Dr. Siegel speaks amid the resurgence of & # 39; Middle Ages & # 39; diseases in the US, where LA is also experiencing a typhoid outbreak early this year.
An outbreak of leprosy can affect homeless people in the US, an expert warns (stock)
Leprosy, or Hansen's disease, affects 250,000 people worldwide every year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Two-thirds of these cases are in India, where one third of the poorest people in the world live, wrote Dr. Siegel The hill.
Central and South America have more than 20,000 new incidents each year, with & # 39; sporadic cases being passed unnoticed across our southern border & # 39 ;, he added.
Even in developed countries such as the US, 150 people are diagnosed with leprosy every year, according to statistics from the CDC.
Once it was thought to be highly contagious, leprosy is actually difficult to spread and easy to treat once it has been diagnosed.
A study from the University of Southern California looked at 187 leprosy patients between 1973 and 2018.
Scientists found an average three-year delay in diagnosis, by which time side effects, some of which were irreversible, had already occurred.
Dr. Siegel is concerned about the homeless population of LA, of whom three-quarters do not have medical treatment, would be particularly vulnerable.
& # 39; It seems only a matter of time before leprosy could occur among the homeless population in an area such as Los Angeles County, & # 39; he wrote.
& # 39; It has (nearly) 60,000 homeless people, 75 percent of which even lack temporary shelter or adequate hygiene and medical treatment.
& # 39; All those factors form a perfect boiler for a contagious disease. & # 39;
Dr. Siegel claims that he is most concerned about the permanent disability that leprosy can cause, rather than the stigma.
But he added: “Leprosy appearing among homeless people in LA is a sure recipe for direct public panic.
The bacteria behind the infection, Mycobacterium leprae, attack nerves in the body, which can lead to the characteristic & # 39; peeling & # 39; skin.
Left untreated this can cause paralysis of the hands and feet. A lack of feeling in the body can also lead to multiple injuries, with damaged fingers and toes even being absorbed by the body.
Eye ulcers and blindness can occur if the facial nerves are affected.
Dr. Siegel's concerns come after typhoid swept LA County, a prosecutor and more than 100 others infected.
Last year, civil servants registered 124 cases of the disease in the province, with homeless people being hit particularly hard. Only 67 cases were registered throughout 2017.
Flea typhus occurs when feces from an infected insect come into contact with a person's cut or are rubbed in their eyes.
These fleas often live on wild cats and rats that are attracted to areas with garbage on the street.
WHAT IS LEPROSY?
Leprosy is a long-term infectious disease that can lead to inflammation of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin and eyes.
The disease is initially symptomless and can go unnoticed for five to 20 years.
Typically for people living in poverty, leprosy was common in the Middle Ages and then in the nineteenth century, but it can still be found in developed and developing countries.
The number of chronic leprosy cases was 189,000 in 2012, compared to around 5.2 million in the 1980s, with India accounting for more than half of all cases.
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