Prisoners contract leprosy
Two prisoners have been diagnosed with leprosy and are being held in isolation for treatment at the Tanumalala Prison.
The outbreak was confirmed by the Minister of Police and Corrections, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt.
“They are doing fine and they are in isolation. There is nothing to worry about,” he said.
The disease is highly infectious and can lead to long-term and serious health consequences such as blindness and deformities.
Symptoms of the disease, which can also permanently damage nerve endings, can take between one to 20 years to manifest.
Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is most commonly associated with sores and deformities visible on the skin of its sufferers at more advanced stages of the disease. It is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae.
The disease is associated closely with poverty and only 200,000 new cases were reported in 2019, mostly in India.
The disease mainly affects the skin and peripheral nerves, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes.
According to the Minister, the prisoners contracted the disease from visitors.
“They are receiving the treatment they need and while it’s concerning how the disease made its way into the prison, we’re adamant the prisoners will be fine and healthy again,” he said.
“The treatment is working and unless they are cleared they will not be allowed where the general populations are held.”
He also noted leprosy is curable and help is available from the national hospital.
“We have made changes to our policies for visitation to assure this does not happen again,” said the Minister.
He did not specify what changes would be made.
Leprosy is generally thought to be transmitted through the upper respiratory tract and through close contact with others who are infected.