World Leprosy Day (January’2024) – Check Its Theme, History and Symptoms


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The last Sunday of every January is observed as World Leprosy Day. There are certain facts about the day that you may like to know. So, read the post below!!

Internationally the World Leprosy Day is observed on the last Sunday of the first month of every year, which is 28th January 2024. However, in India the World Leprosy Day date is different. Here, the day is observed on 30 January to honor the death anniversary of Father of the Nation – Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji advocated the poor and the sick and did a lot of work for people affected by leprosy.

The motive of observing this day is to spread awareness about the disease which many think to have gone extinct. Further, it also aims to spread the message that the stigma and discrimination against leprosy as a disease should be ended.

Let us check some facts and significant details about this day like history, theme etc., in this post.

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World Leprosy Day – Concept

Leprosy is commonly known as Hansen’s disease, which is caused by a kind of bacteria. It is an infectious disease that attacks the nervous system of the human body and spreads to the face, hands and feet. The widespread exposure to the bacteria is the root cause of leprosy.

The day is observed by leprosy-focused organizations, NGOs, and by people affected by the disease. Further, it allows an opportunity for people affected by the disease to raise their voices across the world.

The World Leprosy Day was established in the year 1954 by Raoul Follereau, who was France based activist and journalist.  He established the day with two goals:

  • To educate people about leprosy by correcting misconceptions about the disease
  • To advocate for equality and equal treatment for people affected by leprosy

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World Leprosy Day 2024 Theme

World Leprosy Day is celebrated on the last Sunday of January every year across the globe. However, the World Leprosy Day in India is celebrated on 30th January to commemorate the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The theme of World Leprosy Day 2024 is Act Now. End Leprosy

World Leprosy Day – History

We have already discussed the origin of the celebration of this day. It was started in 1954 by Raoul Follereau, the French philanthropist. Leprosy was earlier regarded as a disease that is not curable. So, the objective of observing this day was to make people aware about the disease and that it is easily curable now.  There are still many people across the globe who are unaware about the disease or the fact that it is curable. This is mostly because of lack of awareness as well as the stigma that surrounds the disease. Further, the access to good medication facilities to the poor and needy affected by leprosy is another thing to note here.

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Reason for celebrating World Leprosy Day

The main objective behind celebrating the day is to spread awareness about the disease that various people think does not exist anymore. However, you would be surprised to know that even today lakhs of people are diagnosed with leprosy every year. Moreover, there are many people who failed to receive leprosy treatment on time and are living with the damages being caused by the disease.

With the observance of World Leprosy Day, people affected by the disease get an opportunity to celebrate their lives and to voice their opinion about the disease, its signs, symptoms, and ways to tackle the humiliation surrounding the disease.

So, now you know about the event – World Leprosy Day. Let us take a look at the disease – Leprosy and know some of its details.

What is Leprosy? How does the disease get transmitted?

As already discussed, leprosy is a chronic and infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, which is a one of the two bacterial species which causes Leprosy or Hansen’s disease. Despite a chronic and infectious disease, Leprosy is curable with medicines. Leprosy multiplies slowly with a gestation period of over 6 years on an average. The symptoms of Leprosy can be seen within a year or may take as long as 20 years or more.

Leprosy may transmit from one individual affected by the disease to a non-affected person through drops coming out of the mouth and nose, especially in case of close contact with the affected person. If not treated properly and on time, Leprosy may cause permanent damage to the skin, limbs, eyes and nerves of the patient.

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Signs and Symptoms of Leprosy

Here are some signs that indicate the existence of leprosy in an individual:

  • Light patches on the skin of dark-skinned people and darker or reddish patches on the skin of pale-skinned people
  • Decrease or total loss of sensation in the affected patches of the skin
  • Hands and feet might get numb or tingle
  • Hands, eyelids and feet might get weak
  • There could be pain in the nerves
  • Face or earlobes may be swollen
  • Wounds or burns on hands or feet might be painless

Some Key Facts about Leprosy

  • Leprosy is also called Hansen’s disease because it is named after a Norwegian doctor called Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen. He was the person who had identified the bacteria causing the disease.
  • Though the entire world observes ‘World Leprosy Day’ on the last Sunday of January every year, in India it is observed on January 30 to associate it with the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji is regarded as the champion of world peace and was known for his compassion towards people affected with the disease.
  • Leprosy is easily curable with proper medication today. Further, this disease is a rare phenomenon in developed countries. However, even today there is a stigma surrounding the disease
  • Countries like Brazil, India, and Indonesia has the maximum number of leprosy cases.
  • Most of the people affected by Leprosy are discriminated against and disliked in many parts of the world. They are also not allowed proper access to appropriate medical care and treatment.
  • World Leprosy Day aims to increase the public awareness about the disease and to make it easy for the sick people to get treatment and to live a dignified life.

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FAQs on World Leprosy Day

When is World Leprosy Day celebrated? Is January 30 observed as Leprosy Day every year?

The World Leprosy Day is observed on the last Sunday of January every year worldwide. However, in India it is observed on January 30 to commemorate the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who was an advocate of the poor and sick.

Has Leprosy been eradicated in the world?

No, Leprosy has not been eradicated altogether from the world. However, it is rare these days but it still exists. As per WHO, 208,000 people approximately are suffering from leprosy (Hansen's disease) around the globe, with most cases found in Asia and Africa

When is leprosy day celebrated in India?

World Leprosy Day is celebrated globally on the last Sunday of January, which is 28th January 2024.  However, in India it is celebrated on 30th January, as on this day Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi who did a lot of work with people affected by leprosy, died.

Is Leprosy highly contagious?

No, it is not that contagious and doesn’t spread with casual contact with an infected person. So, if you shake hands with a person affected by leprosy, hug the person or sit next to him/her, it doesn’t spread Leprosy. A person gets infected only with extensive contact with infected people for a prolonged period.

What originally caused leprosy?

Hansen's disease (also known as leprosy) is an infection caused by slow-growing bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae.

What is the importance of World Leprosy Eradication Day?

The day is important because on this day many events were organized to inform people about the disease and to clear some misconceptions related to the disease. These myths make leprosy a stigma to society. So, through World Leprosy Day, the organizers want to make it easy for the sick people to get treatment and to live a dignified life.

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Jan 04, 2024
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