I recently read an article on BBC News about a man with leprosy. I love researching different medical conditions and I had never even heard of leprosy. When I read the article about the man I was astounded I had gone this long without ever encountering information on this rare but infamous disease. For Simeon Peterson, or Mr. Pete, his journey started when he was diagnosed with leprosy at age 5. Leprosy is a disease that attacks the skin, peripheral nerves, and mucous membranes. Leprosy is basically an infection of the bacteria mycobacterium leprae. When this was discovered by the Norwegian doctor Gerhard Armauer Hanson it became formally known as Hansen’s disease. This disease affects about 6,500 people in the United States and between 150 and 200 people in the United States is diagnosed with this disease every year.
The reason leprosy is so rare is because 95% of the population have a natural immunity to leprosy. Mr. Pete and his family are one of the 5% who don’t. Mr. Pete lives in a community especially for people with leprosy. The community isn’t large like it used to be, because now there is treatment for people with leprosy that not only cures it but makes it so they don’t pass the infectious disease on. When treatment wasn’t available though, many leprosy patients were locked up in this community because the public was scared they would contaminate others with their condition. Mr. Pete, who is no longer confined to the community but enjoys living there, talks to groups of children about the rare disease to get the word out. The main message he wanted to get out to the children was that even though he has leprosy and he was mistreated as a young adult with this disease, now he has a good life and he is happy.
Here is the article about Mr. Pete