Doesn’t that stir up thoughts of Gothic castles, strange asylums and nuns nursing the damned in the slums of Calcutta?

Otherwise known as Hansen’s Disease, it is caused by one of the mycobacterium family (TB ring a bell for anyone?)  Similar to TB, causes granulomas and can be treated with a long course of a couple of particular antibiotics. It doesn’t cause parts of the body to fall off, but does severely damage nerves which results in the patient having decreased ability to feel pain. Recent research in genetics has lead to the assumption that about 95% of the population is naturally immune.
The other five percent? They can become infected.

We drove along between klick after klick of sugar cane fields between Jinja where we are staying and Buluba where the St Frances  Hospital is located. Founded in the 1930s and mostly funded out of Europe (esp Germany and UK) it was initially solely dedicated to the care and treatment of Leprosy. It’s role has evolved over the years as antibiotic regimes have proven to stop the progress of the disease. Unfortunately, neurological loss is normally permanent. In a culture that values village and family times, most patients are not welcome back home. Even though the treatment is outpatient now, occasional medication reactions but mostly lack of support have a significant number of patients remaining for an extended period of time. No matter how much education you provide, some superstition remains. Medication is provided by the government free of charge and it also pays for care.  There are a handful of patients who consider St Francis home and the nuns who run the hospital their home (all over 75 years old).  M. leprosae is not an opportunistic infection, so there has not been any increase with the spread of HIV. 

The infra structure needs help, the generator only supplies those area which require power. We saw a number of patients with leprosy as well as babies with malaria, a toddler with tetanus and several other diseases not routinely found in North American or Western Europe practices.

When you think about it – the characteristics of leprosy with all the associated myths might well have played into nightmare, fantasy, fear and the belief that the living dead really exist.
Zombies anyone?

Water Birds and Sacred Ibis

On a much lighter note, the weather held without rain so we went ahead the planned short boat exploration of Lake Victoria. What follows are pictures of water birds, shore birds and, of course – the source of the Nile (which is the longest river in the world. Yangtze is the third and the Mississippi is the 4th. Blanking on the thirds – but thinking it is the Amazon…) a couple of lizards and one monkey determined to ignore us.  With the skyrocketing population, this area has been extensively fished. Fish farms are now in operation along the shore. Each “container” is stocked with small fish which are fed and will yield about 1000 fish at full growth. What is obvious is that several of the bird species think this is just a special version of “fish in a barrel” created especially for them.

We ate dinner before returning to Jinja.  Since it was too early in the day for the fruit bats I am afraid that I can’t provide you photos of them. 

The origin of the Nile

The origin of the Nile

headed OUT

Source of the Nile

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I'm ignoring you

I’m ignoring you

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Vegetarian Kebab Platter

Vegetarian Kebab Platter

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One Response to Leprosy

  1. Ruth says:

    Amazing bird photos!

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