TWO cases of leprosy could have broken out at a Californian primary school, parents have been warned.
Parents have now refused to send their children to Indian Hills Elementary in Jurupa Valley after notes were sent home warning parents that two students “might” be sick with leprosy.
The school, about an hour’s drive from Los Angeles, sent out the warning on Friday, CBS Los Angeles has reported.
Jurupa Valley Unified Superintendent Elliott Duchon said the school’s classrooms had been decontaminated in response to the threat.
He said the two students, who had been warned of the potential diagnosis by a doctor, had alerted the school’s nursing staff.
Mr Duchon said: “For parents, they need to make a decision for their children but we’re not recommending any precautions.
“There is not a risk at this time.”
The students believed to have been infected have also been pulled out of class for the time being.
It is unclear whether the infected students are related to each other or whether they had recently been overseas.
Riverside County director of disease control Barbara Cole said: “We have not identified any risk at the school and it’s very difficult to transmit to others.”
Despite the attempted reassurances, dozens of parents have kept their children home from school after receiving the letter.
About 90 students were absent from the school on Tuesday morning, three times the usual number.
The children potentially infected will not have their diagnosis confirmed for several weeks.
More than 400 school parents met with health officials after school on Wednesday but were left frustrated when authorities refused to answer any questions about the potentially-infected children and their condition.
As part of the school’s cautionary measures, parents are also set to be interviewed about whether their families have travelled to any less developed countries where the leprosy may have been picked up.
WHAT IS LEPROSY?
While cases of leprosy in the UK and US are extremely rare, the disease can still create ripples of fear.
But what is leprosy?
Otherwise known as Hansen’s, it is a contagious disease that can affect the skin, and in rare cases can cause disfigurements and deformities.
It is caused by a slow-multiplying bacteria, mycobacterium leprae, which starts by damaging the small nerves in the skin’s surface, causing discoloured patches with little to no feeling.
The disease can then spread, going on to damage the nerves in the elbow, wrist and ankle,. It can also cause a loss of sensation to the feet and hands.
As its victims are unable to feel pain, they can often suffer burns, ulcers and other injuries without realising.
The infection can also damage eyelids, making it difficult for those infected to blink while other symptoms include a flattened nose or clawed hand.
The disease can be cured with antibiotics and multidrug therapy but the treatments cannot reverse the physical impacts caused.
According to the World Health Organisation, there were about 210,000 new cases of leprosy diagnosed across the globe in 2015.
More than half of the new diagnoses were in India.
The disease, which is often associated with biblical days, can cause disfiguring skin sores and peeling skin.
The World Health Organisation has reported that the exact way that leprosy is transmitted it not known.
The disease can be treated by antibiotics.
The disease works by damaging the small nerves on the skin’s surface, resulting in the loss of sensation. Those infected then cannot feel pain in the areas and can suffer from unnoticed burns and ulcers.
According to The Leprosy Mission, around a dozen cases are diagnosed in the UK each year, with most cases originating from overseas.
WHAT THE LETTER SENT OUT TO PARENTS SAID
The school district has received an unconfirmed report that two students at Indian Hills Elementary School have been diagnosed with Hansen’s disease (leprosy). This report has not been confirmed by the Health Department. In an abundance of caution, administration wanted to share this information with you as soon as possible.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, is a chronic bacterial disease that primarily affects the skin, peripheral nerves and upper airway. Feared as a highly contagious and dangerous disease, it is well established that Hansen’s disease is not highly transmissible, is very treatable, and, with early diagnosis and treatment, is not disabling.”