Leprosy On Rise In Florida, Officials Blame Armadillos

(WTNH) An unusually high number of leprosy cases are turning up in Florida, and state health officials say it’s because more people are coming into contact with armadillos.

The disease, known to many only because of its mentions in the Bible, causes damage to the skin and nerves.  Many armadillos are naturally infected with leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease.  Florida usually sees only two to 12 cases a year, but already this year there have been nine.  On average, there are only a total of 50-to-100 cases each year across the United States.

Florida officials say new home developments in the state have pushed more armadillos into the open during the day, when contact with people is more likely.  The Centers for Disease Control is also warning that most cases are not spread by animals, but by coughing and sneezing.  Chances of recovery from leprosy are good if it’s treated promptly, but if it’s not it can become life threatening.

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