Of all the infectious diseases in history, one that has gotten an unwarranted bad rap is leprosy, or Hansen's Disease. This disease, which is mentioned in the bible, has become synonymous with contagion--but it's not really a very contagious disease at all.
Hansen's Disease, caused by infection with Mycobacterium leprae (and also M.lepromatosis), is a chronic disease that effects the respiratory system nerves, skin, and mucus membranes. It is by no means incurable as it is amenable to treatment with antibiotics. It is spread from person-to-person via the respiratory route. It's natural host is the armadillo. In 2009, a little over 200 new cases were reported in the US.
What most people don't realize however, is that 95% of humans are unable to be infected because of a specific genetic resistance conferred via their immune systems. This means that far from being highly contagious, leprosy's transmissibility between humans is seriously hobbled.
All of these facts have been known for sometime but it didn't stop the creation of leper colonies (e.g. Molokai in Hawaii) or other unjustified control measures in the not too far past. These misconceptions persist to this day and have penetrated deeply into popular culture. Case in point: the television program Scorpion. On a recent episode, one character states to another that he hugs as if he's at a leper colony. Such a comment is based on an extremely erroneous notion of leprosy's contagiousness.
What this brief mention on a tv program illustrates is the need to educate people on the difference between highly contagious infectious diseases and those that are less contagious. Such a point was something that I sought to make, over and over, with Ebola lest unjustified control measures be instituted as they were with leprosy.