Over 200,000 Cases of Leprosy in 2012
Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’. As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.
Leviticus 13: 45-46 (NIV)
While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and besought him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And he stretched out his hand, and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one; but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” But so much the more the report went abroad concerning him; and great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed of their infirmities. But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.
Luke 5: 12-16 (NIV)
The Bible has descriptions of and laws related to leprosy and healing. Did you notice that women are not identified in any of the leprosy accounts? This probably represents the social isolation and stigma that accompanies this disease. They probably did not survive the isolation.
I have not seen leprosy during pregnancy. The challenge is how to treat and the effects of the treatment on the fetus and baby after delivery. Let me briefly tell you of a patient that I recently saw:
The patient was a 26 year old admitted with bacterial meningitis and pregnant around 24 weeks. Her mother has been with her and provided the history. She was treated with antibiotics and showed improvement. What was more remarkable was her face with large painless nodules that have been there for the last six years. I will not post a picture of the patient, but I will never forget her face. It looks like the pictures of known cases with leprosy. We still have to confirm the diagnosis with biopsy of the lesions and begin treatment.
This case will probably not be resolved for a long time and will require multiple providers and resources that will be difficult to find. A comprehensive treatment program is required that is more than just the medications.
What I learned again from seeing this patient is that God’s love continues to reach out to the poor, the outcast and the isolated. Thanks be to God for his healing gifts!
Duncan, M E. An historical and clinical review of the interaction of leprosy and pregnancy: a cycle to be broken. Social Science & Medicine. 37(4):457-72, 1993 Aug.
Morrison, A. A woman with leprosy is in double jeopardy. Leprosy Review. 71(2):128-43, 2000 Jun