This is the VOA Special English Health Report.
Pope Benedict named five new saints on Sunday, including a Catholic clergyman who cared for people in a leper colony.
Father Damien was born Joseph De Veuster in Belgium. In 1873 he went to the Hawaiian island of Molokai. After several years of working in the colony, he himself developed leprosy. Father Damien died in 1889. He was 49 years old.
Leprosy -- also called Hansen's disease -- is a bacterial disease that causes skin wounds and nerve damage. The disease can severely disfigure victims and cause death. Untreated patients can spread the bacteria from their nose and mouth through the air to people who are near them a lot.
But doctors have been able to treat leprosy since the 1940s. Today they use a combination of three drugs. Experts say after the first treatment, patients can no longer infect others.
At the start of this year there were 213,000 cases of leprosy reported in 121 countries. The World Health Organization says there were almost 250,000 new cases last year. But the drug combination can cure the disease within 6 to 12 months.
The number of new cases has been falling in many countries. But there are places where leprosy is still spreading quickly. These include areas of Angola, Brazil, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and India. Other areas are in Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal and Tanzania.
Leprosy is an ancient disease. It victims have been highly stigmatized -- often blamed for their condition and made to feel unclean. In India, leprosy has traditionally been considered a punishment for something bad done in a former life. Other cultures have considered it a sign of evil.
James Staples teaches in the School of Social Sciences at Brunel University in Britain. He is author of the book "Peculiar People, Amazing Lives: Leprosy, Social Exclusion and Community Making in South India."
He tells us that modern knowledge about leprosy does not necessarily reduce the stigma. Public health campaigns spread the message that leprosy is curable and not highly infectious. Yet he says this message is often more scary for people than the idea that leprosy is some sort of spiritual punishment. That explanation may not do much for the patient's place in society, he says, "but at least other people don't think they are going to catch it."
And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.
leper: a person affected by leprosy 麻风病患者
leprosy: a chronic, mildly contagious granulomatous disease of tropical and subtropical regions, caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium leprae, characterized by ulcers of the skin, bone, and viscera and leading to loss of sensation, paralysis, gangrene, and deformation 麻风病
stigmatize: to accuse or condemn or openly or formally or brand as disgraceful 指责（be stigmatized as a coward 被指责为懦夫）
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(Source: VOA 英语点津编辑）