Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Leprosy in the Philippines

Dr. Belen Dofitas, my mentor during medical school and a woman I'm proud and honored to know, talks about leprosy in the Philippines. She is featured in this month's issue of MIMS.

Aside from a leprosy patient’s continuous battle with the disease, they also experience social isolation and emotional distress—all because of the many misconceptions about the disease.

For example, many Filipinos still think leprosy is highly contagious: “Around 95% of the population has good resistance against the leprosy bacteria and can clear it when it enters the body.”

Another false belief about leprosy is that it causes certain body parts (fingers, toes, etc.) to fall off, for which Dr Lardizabal-Dofitas explained: “Leprosy invades and damages the nerves that supply our limbs. When the nerve damage is great, the tissues of the fingers and toes cannot grow normally anymore and sort of wither and shrink, much like a tree’s branches when the roots are damaged. The fingers and toes most certainly do not rot and fall off.

Read about the amazing efforts of the Philippine Leprosy Mission and what you can do to help. At the Philippine General Hospital, patients with Hansen's disease (the more technical term for leprosy) are members of the Hansen's Club, where they meet regularly.

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