Leprologist describes Mail Online claim of a potential leprosy outbreak among LA’s homeless as ‘complete nonsense’

Leprologist, member of The Leprosy Mission’s Leprosy Research Committee and Medical Advisor for American Leprosy Mission, Dr Paul Saunderson, has described a potential outbreak of leprosy among LA’s homeless population, as reported on the Mail Online on 9 September, as ‘complete nonsense’.

The alarmist report is taken from an article on American political website The Hill written by Fox News’s Medical Correspondent, Dr Marc Siegel, which states that ‘it seems only a matter of time before leprosy could take hold among the homeless population in an area such as Los Angeles County, with close to 60,000 homeless people’. 

Dr Siegel raises the possibility of undetected leprosy cases being brought over the southern border from Mexico into the US.

Dr Saunderson, responding to the speculation on the Mail Online and The Hill, said: “These articles are a mixture of several accurate facts about leprosy and highly inaccurate speculation about the possible spread of the disease in the homeless population in the United States.  

“The comparison with typhus, which is spread through completely different mechanisms, is totally unwarranted.  

“The annual number of new cases of leprosy in the US has been the constant for decades; about 100 cases occur in migrants (entering through any port of entry, not especially the southern border), and about 30 indigenous cases seem to occur through transmission from armadillos, particularly in Louisiana and Texas.  

“Although the disease is related to poverty in endemic countries, there is no evidence of transmission between humans in western countries, so the suggestion of outbreaks as described in the articles amongst any communities in the US is complete nonsense.”