Leprosy in Puerto Rico: insight into the new millennia

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Abstract

Background

Leprosy, or Hansen's disease, is a chronic infectious disease caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium leprae. In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined the elimination of the disease as a global prevalence of less than one case per 10,000 population. However, disease transmission is an ongoing worldwide public health concern, as evidenced by the more than 220,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

Methods

This study is an update of the incidence and prevalence of leprosy in Puerto Rico for the period of 2000–2014. A retrospective analysis of data was obtained from the Tropical Disease Clinic (TDC) of the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine.

Results

Sixty-three new cases of leprosy are detailed in this study. Disease incidence and prevalence were 1.65 and 5.26 per 100,000 inhabitants (of the island of Puerto Rico), respectively, and an average of 4.2 new cases per year. Most of the male patients in the study suffered from lepromatous leprosy (P = 0.026). In all, 47 (74.6%) patients had been born in Puerto Rico, and 29 (46%) had an affected family member or were in close contact with someone with leprosy.

Conclusions

Compared to those of previous studies, these results demonstrate a decrease in both the incidence and prevalence of leprosy in Puerto Rico over the past 15 years. The relatively high prevalence of leprosy in Puerto Rico means that it remains endemic on the island. Concerted efforts must be undertaken to achieve the goal of the elimination of this old and stigmatized disease.

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