Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Nordheim community to be commended for support

Aug. 19, 2014 at 11:51 a.m.

While outbreaks of leprosy have decreased to about 211,903 worldwide, diagnoses of the disease in the United States are few and far between.

Some 213 cases were reported in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and 95 percent of people are not susceptible to the infection.

Yet in Nordheim, Cody Baker, 16, is battling leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, with courage and good humor.

Since leprosy is not easily transferred from person to person, Health and Human Services has determined that in some rare cases, armadillos in the southern U.S. may be the source of transmission from animal to human.

The Advocate reported in an Aug. 10 article that Cody's doctors are uncertain as to how he contracted the disease.

Though leprosy is often thought to be an ancient disease, dating back to biblical times as early as 4,000 B.C., the rare disease still affects many worldwide. And leper colonies still exist in some parts of the world, including this one.

Cody's diagnosis reminds us of that fact.

His diagnosis was also helpful in explaining how modern-day leprosy is treated with today's medicine - and the expense it carries.

Even in a first-world country with first-class physicians, the disease is not easy to rid from the human body.

One of Cody's three-times-daily prescriptions costs $5,000 per pill, for example.

The article written about Cody and the photos the Advocate captured also highlighted Cody as a regular teenage boy, someone not to be feared or shunned.

The stigma often associated with leprosy and lepers is likely a great burden for a teenager and those in his inner circle to carry.

Conversely, we expect not everyone he encounters outside of that inner circle will always be so fearless in their interactions with Cody, especially if they're unfamiliar with the disease and how it's transmitted.

So we applaud the Nordheim community and everyone who attended his recent barbecue fundraiser for reaching out to him and making him feel welcome and supported.

You have embraced him and his needs, and demonstrated deep regard for this charismatic teen.

He is expected to endure five more years of expensive and prolonged medical treatment while fighting the disease and will likely need all the support he can get.

Thankfully, leprosy is curable, and we expect this young man has many bright years ahead of him.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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