Woman’s rash was actually leprosy
“Our patient was diagnosed relatively quickly” NT CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL
A TERRITORY woman has been diagnosed with leprosy.
The 54-year-old, who migrated from the Philippines over 20 years ago, presented to a dermatology outpatient clinic complaining of a threemonth history of rash.
She described a painful, red skin lesion to the left elbow that had been gradually increasing in size.
She was diagnosed with the disease and treatment was started immediately.
The rare case was highlighted in a report by the The Northern Territory Disease Control released in June.
“Our patient was diagnosed relatively quickly, as on average patients report two years of symptoms prior to diagnosis,” the report said.
Leprosy is a contagious, but curable, disease that affects the skin, mucous membranes, and nerves, causing discolouration and lumps on the skin and, in severe cases, disfigurement and deformities.
Leprosy rates in Australia are low, less than one case per one million population) and the disease predominantly occurs in immigrants from leprosy endemic areas and indigenous Australians.
Worldwide leprosy currently affects about 1.15 million people, with the majority of cases originating in India, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Bangladesh.
The disease is thought to be transmitted via droplets from the nose and mouth during close and frequent contact with affected individuals.
However, less than one per cent of the population that comes into contact with it will develop the disease.
Medical advancements in treating the disease have come along since the day leprosariums were used to separate sufferers from the general public.
In Darwin, a site on Channel Island originally built for use as a Commonwealth Quarantine Station was turned into a leprosarium in 1931.
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of mostly indigenous people, including children, suffering leprosy were removed from their homes across the Northern Territory and sent by the Commonwealth Government to isolation at the Channel Island Leprosarium between 1931 and 1955.
There was no known cure for leprosy at the time and those suffering the infectious disease were deemed “lepers” and outcasts of society.
Once banished to the island, many were subjected to forced labour and held captive there for years.
An estimated 140 people never made it out of the Channel Island Leprosarium alive, dying an early death from a range of illnesses and a lack of medical care.
At least 60 bodies are thought to remain in unmarked graves on the island.