‘There is no risk at this time.’
Students were sent home from school with a warning claiming two students “might” have leprosy.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – The Jurupa Unified School District (JUSD) Superintendent and Riverside County Health Department reported two students at the Indian Hills Elementary School in Riverside, California may have leprosy.
School officials issued a warning to parents explaining: “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 devastating 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.'”
Links to the National Hansen’s Disease Program in English and Spanish were provided as well as the school’s Superintendent’s office phone number for anyone with additional questions.
JUSD Superintendent Elliott Duchon told ABC7: “We had reported to the office two students who were initially told by their doctor that they were diagnosed with leprosy, this is unconfirmed because leprosy requires a significant diagnosis including things like a biopsy.”
Regardless, parents and students took the warning seriously and, following the school’s three-day weekend, some students were sent to school wearing face masks.
One parent, Karen Sunderland, admitted, “I don’t know exactly what it is, I just know it’s scary.”
Barbara Cole, an employee with the disease control branch of the Riverside County Health Department, explained: “Someone with leprosy would have skin lesions usually, and they can have fever, fatigue, [and] joint pain. Transmission or spread to others is very unlikely. We don’t feel there’s a risk in the school setting.”
Adolph Flores, one concerned grandparent, described: “Normally this place would be packed with kids, we walk around and the sidewalk would be full of kids, hardly any (today). We’re concerned, but what can we do? They say it’s OK, so it’s OK.”
While some parents remain afraid, others, such as Augie Rodriquez, simply stated: “You can’t get scared and stop bringing your kids to school, with that way of thinking you can’t take them to the park or anywhere else.”
Leprosy is a long-term infection that affects the skin, eyes, upper airway and motor and sensory nerves. It is difficult to contract as roughly 95 percent of the world is immune to the infection-causing bacteria.
“We have to keep stressing it’s not confirmed,” Cole stated. “We’re just at the beginning of the investigation.”