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One Case Of Leprosy Confirmed At Riverside County Elementary School

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Though initial reports suggested there may have been two students at Indian Hills Elementary School in Jurupa Valley who had contracted Hansen's disease, otherwise known as leprosy, it has now been confirmed that only one child was actually infected. Test results from the National Hansen's Disease Laboratory Research Program in Louisiana came back Thursday afternoon, the Press Enterprise reports.

Riverside County Director of Disease Control Barbara Cole stated that the child who tested positive for the disease contracted it by prolonged contact with someone who was also infected, and who does not reside in Riverside County. Due to the stigma surrounding the disease, officials are remaining tight-lipped about the two students' identity in the interest of their privacy.

Superintendent Elliott Duchon said, "The message to the other students is the school is safe, was safe, always has been safe."

The school was cleaned and sanitized in early September after a warning letter was sent out notifying parents of the two possible, yet unconfirmed cases. However, unlike more communicable diseases, you can't contract leprosy via contact with surfaces or doorknobs touched by an infected person.

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Hansen's disease is an illness that is often misunderstood and feared to an unreasonable extent. The pejorative "leper" has been used to describe sufferers of the disease, and the phrase "treated like a leper" indicates that a person is being avoided or shunned. In reality, leprosy is actually quite rare, hard to contract, and easy to treat with antibiotics.

According to the CDC, 95 percent of us are immune to the disease even if exposed to it. It is only transferred during prolonged contact with an untreated individual, and once a person has begun treatment, they will no longer be contagious within a day or so. It is only when left untreated that sufferers of the disease will begin to experience permanent damage to the nerves, eyes or skin. However, it is not true that the disease causes body parts to fall off. In the United States, Hansen's disease is rare, with only about 150 diagnosed cases each year. People in the U.S. are most likely to contract leprosy after prolonged contact with someone who lives in or visits a country where It is more common, such as Brazil, Angola or Madagascar.