Leprosy | Causes & Risk Factors

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Who is at risk for leprosy?

Doctors aren’t exactly sure how leprosy is spread. Leprosy is not very contagious. You can’t catch it by touching someone who has the disease. Most cases of leprosy are from long-term contact with someone who has the disease. Doctors believe that leprosy might be passed from person to person by breathing in droplets that get into the air when infected people cough or sneeze. Most people who come in contact with the Mycobacterium leprae do not develop leprosy. However, people whose immune systems are weakened from chronic disease (such as diabetes, HIV, AIDS or heart disease) may be more likely to develop leprosy because their immune systems are not strong enough to fight the bacteria.

Children are more likely to develop leprosy than adults.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/11
Created: 11/09

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