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When the rash on his chest first appeared, the 48-year-old office worker dismissed it as an allergic reaction to the shellfish. he had recently eaten. His doctor agreed and prescribed an ointment. But when the red bumps did not go away after several months and began to spread to his legs, arms and face, the man began to worry. He saw another doctor, who had no explanation for his condition, and finally another, who gave him a startling diagnosis: leprosy.
In the United States, leprosy is usually regarded as a plague of the past, a disease relegated to biblical times or, perhaps, to poor and distant countries. But, in fact, as cases of leprosy have been declining worldwide in recent years, the infection has actually been on the rise in the United States.
While there were some 900 recorded cases in the United States 40 years ago, today more than 7,000 people have leprosy, or Hansenâ€™s disease, as...