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Hansen’s Disease and Complications among Marshallese Persons Residing in Northwest Arkansas, 2003–2017

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  • 1 Arkansas Department of Health, Little Rock, Arkansas;
  • 2 Epidemic Intelligences Service, Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia;
  • 3 University of Arkansas for the Medical Sciences, Northwest Regional Campus, Fayetteville, Arkansas

ABSTRACT

Persons from the Republic of the Marshall Islands have among the highest rates of Hansen’s disease (HD) in the world; the largest Marshallese community in the continental United States is in northwest Arkansas. In 2017, the HD Ambulatory Care Clinic in Springdale, Arkansas, informed the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) that Marshallese persons with HD had severe disease with frequent complications. To characterize their illness, we reviewed ADH surveillance reports of HD among Marshallese persons in Arkansas treated during 2003–2017 (n = 42). Hansen’s Disease prevalence among Marshallese in Arkansas (11.7/10,000) was greater than that in the general U.S. population. Complications included arthritis (38%), erythema nodosum leprosum (21%), and prolonged treatment lasting > 2 years (40%). The majority (82%) of patients treated for > 2 years had documented intermittent therapy. Culturally appropriate support for therapy and adherence is needed in Arkansas.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Sarah M. Labuda, Division of Scientific Education and Professional Development, Epidemic Intelligence Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Arkansas Department of Health, 4815 West Markham St., Slot 32, Little Rock, AR 72205. E-mail: nqv0@cdc.gov

Disclaimer: The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the CDC or the Arkansas Department of Health.

Authors’ addresses: Sarah M. Labuda, Epidemic Intelligence Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA and Arkansas Department of Health, Little Rock, AR, E-mail: nqv0@cdc.gov. Sandra H. Williams, and Leonard N. Mukasa, Arkansas Department of Health, Little Rock, AR, E-mails: nqv0@cdc.gov, sandy.hainline.williams@gmail.com and leonard.mukasa@arkansas.gov. Linda McGhee, University of Arkansas for the Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR, E-mail: lmcghee@uams.edu.

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