I have been covering the typhus and typhoid outbreaks that have hit Southern California as a result of the rat-infestation around homeless encampments.

Now an outbreak of a notorious disease, leprosy, is being reported. A recent study published as a Reuters Health report indicates the bacterial infection is emerging in the Los Angeles area (hat-tip ZeroHedge’s Tyler Durden):

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is rarely seen in the United States, but cases continue to emerge in Los Angeles County, a new report says.

“Hansen’s disease still exists, and we need to educate medical students and physicians,” coauthor Dr. Maria Teresa Ochoa from Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, told Reuters Health by email.

Dr. Ochoa and colleagues identified 187 patients with the disease in a review of medical records from their leprosy clinic spanning 1973 to 2018. Most patients were Latino, originating from Mexico, and they experienced a median delay in diagnosis of more than three years, the team reports JAMA Dermatology, online August 7.

Leprosy, more formally known as Hansen’s Disease, is caused by the Mycobacterium leprae bacteria. These pathogens grow slowly, and it can take up to 20 years before the first signs of the infection occur. Perhaps the most infamous aspect of the disease is the loss of fingers, toes, and other extremities if the infection is left untreated.

If left untreated, the nerve damage can result in paralysis of hands and feet. In very advanced cases, the person may have multiple injuries due to lack of sensation, and eventually the body may reabsorb the affected digits over time, resulting in the apparent loss of toes and fingers. Corneal ulcers and blindness can also occur if facial nerves are affected. Other signs of advanced Hansen’s disease may include loss of eyebrows and saddle-nose deformity resulting from damage to the nasal septum.

Perhaps one of the most famous cases of leprosy was that of King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem.

A troubling element of this news is that no one knows precisely how Hansen’s disease spreads. Scientists currently think it may happen when a person with Hansen’s disease coughs or sneezes, and a healthy person breathes in the droplets containing the bacteria. It appears that prolonged, close contact with an untreated leprosy patient over many months has to happen before infection can occur.

Imagine the Los Angeles area police officers and civil servants, who routinely walk through the coughing, hacking, and ill homeless population along Skid Row on their way to work daily. How long will it be before a tax-paying California resident, who paid for a functioning public health system, is infected?

Another disturbing aspect of this report is the complex treatment, which takes place for a year or two. Treatment for Hansen’s disease includes a combination of two or three antibiotics at the same time.

How many mentally ill and/or drug-addicted homeless Californians are likely to manage to take the pills at the required times, refill prescriptions, and continue the treatment for up to 24 months? How is the California health system, which offers MediCal to illegal immigrants up to 26 years in age, going to pay for these treatments?

One note: The city employee who was infected with typhus earlier this year is still not well enough to go back to work.

Jake Reiner spoke to deputy city attorney Liz Greenwood Thursday evening.

“The people that live and do business in the city of Los Angeles expect the city of Los Angeles to not casually allow them to catch a medieval disease as they walk into City Hall,” Greenwood says.

Sadly for Greenwood, the data suggests even more medieval diseases are on the way.

 
 
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