I did a Google search and found this information: The exact mechanism of transmission of leprosy is not known. At least until recently, the most widely held belief was that the disease was transmitted by contact between cases of leprosy and healthy persons. More recently the possibility of transmission by the respiratory route is gaining ground. There are also other possibilities such as transmission through insects which cannot be completely ruled out. I found this info at this website: http://www.who.int/lep/disease/Microbiology/micro.htm
I have no quarrel with what Rep. Hayworth had to say, except I wish he had referred to the people crossing our borders illegally as "illegal aliens" or "undocumented aliens".
Most people are immune to it, and transmission requires long-term exposure. You don't get it from an infected person sneezing near you a couple of times. You get it from being one of the 5% or so of people who is not immune AND have close long term contact with a person who has an active infection (e.g. living in the same household for a long time, working in patient care for people with leprosy for a long time, etc.).
It's just plain irresponsible to classify leprosy with TB and polio, which ARE highly contagious, and which virtually all people are susceptible to. TB and polio CAN be caught via brief casual contact with infected people, and those diseases are worth focusing on as a serious problem related to illegal immigration.