The link below is a letter-to-the-editor which was published in the New York Times on November 22, 2009. This link was sent to me by a reader, and, judging from the letter’s context, it was written by a team of health-care professionals who were countering a previous article in the New York Times. That earlier article apparently mocked an assertion by Lou Dobbs (who has left CNN-TV) that there was a “non-existent, immigrant-borne leprosy epidemic.”

The three letter-writers (a doctor, a therapist and a nurse) are on the staff of the Hansen’s (Leprosy) Disease Program at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York. Their letter states that “leprosy is clearly here in New York, and our clinic…treats more than 500 identified cases of leprosy.” They also confirm that “most” lepers are immigrants. It needs to be pointed out that their letter states that leprosy is “endemic,” not “epidemic” in New York. Their letter warns that no one knows how many undetected and unreported cases of leprosy there are in the New York region, and further warns that leprosy may go undetected for years before it becomes apparent. Based on the confirmed cases of leprosy that their medical program is treating,  their letter warns that “there are many additional unidentified cases of leprosy in the tristate area and mid-Atlantic region.”

Matthew 24:7 warns that “pestilences” will be unleashed on mankind in the latter days before the return of Jesus Christ. There are many kinds of “pestilences” (AIDS, Bubonic Plague, Malaria, etc.) that are well-known to mankind, and with the rapid travel options available today and with loose border standards in the USA and world pertaining to immigrants, any kind of disease or “pestilence” can travel all over the world very quickly. Leprosy is a pestilence much-discussed in biblical accounts, and it was especially feared because it was untreatable and led to a slow, agonizing death. Treatment options are now more advanced I’m sure, but I have never read anywhere that leprosy is curable. Leviticus 13 indicated that quarantines were the ancient way of preventing the spread of leprosy, and that is why there were “leper colonies.” Such a colony is depicted very graphically in the movie “Ben-Hur.” Leprosy was a feared disease in the early New Testament times and many gospel accounts refer to Jesus Christ healing lepers (Matthew 8:1-3, 11:5, Mark 1:40-44, Luke 17;12-19).

The letter to the New York Times warns that both laymen and medical professionals mistakenly assume that leprosy is non-existent. Obviously, it is back and present in the United States. Since medical professionals almost never consider leprosy as a possible diagnosis when looking at a person’s symptoms in the USA, this disease may actually be present in more places in the USA than just the New York region. After all, immigrants (legal or illegal) carrying leprosy could end up anywhere in the USA.

The letter warns that the symptoms of leprosy may not be noticeable for years. I guess that means we’ll have to wait a few years to determine just how many cases of leprosy there now are in the USA. The situation seems to cry out for tighter border control, doesn’t it?