Charity chief highlights magnitude of global leprosy after squirrel link to historic English outbreak

The Lepra team in Colchester. Picture: FIONA GRAHAM

The Lepra team in Colchester. Picture: FIONA GRAHAM - Credit: Fiona Graham

A Colchester charity aiming to eradicate leprosy around the world has highlighted the scale of the disease, following headlines linking squirrels with an outbreak in England in the Middle Ages.

The hands of a person affected by 'claw hand' caused by leprosy. Picture: SIMON RAWLES

The hands of a person affected by 'claw hand' caused by leprosy. Picture: SIMON RAWLES - Credit: Simon Rawles

Last week, scientific studies of a pre-Norman skull, unearthed in a Hoxne garden and held in the collections of Diss Museum, suggested squirrels brought the disease along Viking trading routes.

Just four cases are now reported in the UK each year, but according to Lepra, three million people are believed to live undiagnosed worldwide.

Geoff Prescott, chief executive of Lepra, which found, diagnosed and treated 14,300 people with leprosy last year, said common misconceptions, like the disease no longer existing, continue to hinder the fight for a cure.

“It is important people know this disease still exists and that there are millions affected who desperately need support.”


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Visit lepra.org.uk for more on the charity’s work.

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