What Are Leper Colonies?


Quick Answer

Leper colonies are places where people with leprosy, also called Hansen's disease, are forced to live away from those who do not have the disease, notes HowStuffWorks. Despite advances in treatment and more knowledge regarding how the disease is transmitted, some parts of the developing world still maintain leper colonies.

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Full Answer

Fear of leprosy has been evident throughout history, with mention in the Bible and in medieval laws that required lepers to wear identifying clothing and ring bells to alert people that they were nearby, states HowStuffWorks. While lepers had long been forced to live apart from others, often in hospitals just for leprosy patients, countries starting establishing leper colonies in the late 1800s, on remote parts of their land or on islands. Government officials banished people to these leper colonies for life, cutting off any connections they had to the outside world.

Most leper colonies closed in the 1960s, as doctors found antibiotics and drug regimens that cured the disease, notes HowStuffWorks. Leper colonies still exist in Africa and Asia, and there are many leper colonies in India, as of 2015. India accounts for almost 60 percent of the world's new leprosy cases. However, some cases are not reported, as patients do not want to be stigmatized or sent to leper colonies and thus do not seek treatment.

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