Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease (HD), is a chronic disease of the skin and peripheral nerves.

95% of the world’s population is naturally immune to the disease. Mycobacterium leprae, the causative agent, was first identified under the microscope in 1873, by Dr. Gerhard Hansen, a Norwegian researcher. Norway was the last European country to have a serious problem with Hansen’s disease.

The first cases of HD in Louisiana were detected in the 1750s. Left untreated, HD can be progressive, causing permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes. Contrary to folklore, HD does not cause body parts to fall off, although they can become numb and/or infected as a result of the disease.

Skin lesions, with sensory loss, are the primary symptoms of the disease. Without the “gift of pain" sensation, patients continually injure their bodies, causing wounds and infections that can create a natural amputation process to extremities and possible blindness.

In 1941, Dr. Guy Faget, Carville’s Medical Officer in Charge, pioneered a drug therapy that stopped the progression of nerve damage. Six patients volunteered for the daily intravenous injections of the drug Promin and began to look better and feel better after six months. This era is known as “The Miracle at Carville.”

Eventually this successful treatment changed a patients’ quarantine from a “life-time” to a few voluntary years. Hope for discharge fueled many positive changes. The patients’ advocacy movement gained steam. News of the successful treatment spread around the world. Today, a multi-drug therapy is used to treat the 150-to-200 new cases diagnosed in the US yearly. Louisiana patients are now treated at a Baton Rouge out-patient facility.

Make a right onto the oak lined avenue and drive to the front of the Infirmary for Stop 4.

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Audio

Carville Driving Tour, Stop #3
Audio narration for Stop #3 (Hansen's Disease) on the Carville: The National Leprosarium tour
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