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Leprous / Leprosos | by SantiMB.Photos
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Leprous / Leprosos

Plaça Major - Manresa, Barcelona (Spain).


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Leprosy, or Hansen's disease, is a chronic infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. Leprosy is primarily a granulomatous disease of the peripheral nerves and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract; skin lesions are the primary external symptom. Left untreated, leprosy can be progressive, causing permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes. Contrary to popular conception,[citation needed] leprosy does not cause body parts to simply fall off, and it differs from tzaraath, the malady described in the Hebrew scriptures and previously translated into English as leprosy.


Historically, leprosy has affected humanity since at least 300 BC, and was well-recognized in the civilizations of ancient China, Egypt and India. In 1995, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that between two and three million individuals were permanently disabled because of leprosy. Although the forced quarantine or segregation of patients is unnecessary—and can be considered unethical—a few leper colonies still remain around the world, in countries such as India, and Vietnam.


Numerous leprosaria, or leper hospitals, sprang up in the Middle Ages, Matthew Paris estimated that in the early thirteenth century there were 19,000 across Europe. The first recorded leprosarium was in Harbledown. These institutions were run along monastic lines and, while lepers were encouraged to live in these monastic-type establishments, this was for their own health as well as quarantine. Indeed, some medieval sources indicate belief that those suffering from leprosy were considered to be going through Purgatory on Earth, and for this reason their suffering was considered more holy than the ordinary person's. More frequently, lepers were seen to exist in a place between life and death: they were still alive, yet many chose or were forced to ritually separate themselves from mundane existence.


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La lepra es una enfermedad poco contagiosa producida por el bacilo de Hansen (Mycobacterium leprae), descubierto por Gerhard Armauer Hansen; en honor a éste, se la denomina técnicamente enfermedad de Hansen.


Su difusión es muy vasta, pero es más frecuente en los países tropicales o templados. Presenta dos tipos principales: la lepra tuberculoide, que produce grandes manchas hiperestésicas y más tarde anestésicas, y la lepra lepromatosa, que origina grandes nódulos en la piel (lepromas). La progresión de las lesiones es causa de grandes deformaciones. Durante la Edad Media fue una enfermedad muy difundida. El tratamiento de la enfermedad, hoy en día, varía entre seis meses y dos años, según las formas, y se basa en la administración de sulfonas. La última leprosería de Europa se encuentra en Vall de Laguart, en la provincia de Alicante, es el Sanatorio de San Francisco de Borja, más conocido como el Sanatorio de Fontilles.


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Taken on February 17, 2008