Leprosy: Ohio Prison Inmate Being Treated For The Rare Disease

An Ohio prison inmate is being treated for leprosy. The Chillicothe Correctional Institution (CCI) inmate was diagnosed with the rare disease on October 14. There are reportedly only 6,500 known cases of leprosy in America and 200,000 worldwide.

The name of the Ross County prison inmate is not being released. The correctional system did report that the man is a native of Micronesia.

“Obviously this is a very rare disease,” Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Chief of Medical Services Stuart Hudson said. The Ohio prison medical official believes the CCI inmate brought leprosy with him.

The Ohio inmate with leprosy was arrested in Warren County, and then entered the correctional system in January 2011 at the intake facility in Orient. The leprosy patient was then reportedly transferred to the Madison Correctional Institution near London, Ohio, before ultimately being sent to CCI in Chillicothe.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction medical officer also stated that approximately 95 percent of the human race has a natural immunity to the rare skin disease. The inmate first received treatment for a bacterial or skin infection. When the condition worsened while being housed at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, a minimum security prison, a test for leprosy was initiated.

Leprosy is an infectious disease known to cause severe and disfiguring skin sores as well as nerve damage to the legs and arms. Individuals can only contract leprosy if they come into repeated contact with nose and mouth droplets from someone with untreated leprosy, according to WebMD. Children are reportedly more likely to catch leprosy than adults.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the vast majority of leprosy infections exist in Asia and Africa. In the United States, most of the leprosy cases diagnosed occur in Hawaii and South California. The rare skin disease is caused by a “slow-growing” bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. The condition is also often referred to a Hansen’s disease, in honor of the scientist who discovered the condition in 1873.

The Ohio prison inmate with leprosy transported to the Ohio State University Medical Center for further treatment.

“He was treated, provided with antibiotics, and is no longer contagious. Once the course of antibiotics has taken effect, he should be cured,” Hudson added.

The Chillicothe Correctional Institution has a total staff of 540, which includes 34 security officers. The current case is the first known occurrence of the illness in the Ohio prison system.

[Image via: Unearthed Ohio]