Leprosy is a chronic mildly contageous disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, a bacteria similar to that which causes tuberculosis. Leprosy affects about 12 million people in low lying, humid, tropical and subtropical areas found near the equator.
Leprosy causes skin lesions and superficial nerve damage with areas of numbness. Together these can result in deformity and loss of fingers and toes. Like tuberculosis drug treatment has to be prolonged and is complicated. Leprosy rarely causes death but untreated it causes much disability.
Leprosy caused 0.011% of all deaths worldwide in 2002, with an average of 1 death per million people.