Florida residents are being advised to avoid contact with armadillos that are reportedly the cause of a rise in leprosy cases throughout the state.
According to reports, nine cases of leprosy — also called Hansen’s disease — have been reported across Florida so far this year. The average number of cases per year in the state is 10, the Associated Press reported.
With armadillos common in parts of Florida, including wooded areas, experts advised residents to stay away from the creatures — which are known to be naturally infected with the bacterial disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that while there is a low risk for a person to catch the disease from an armadillo, it recommends avoiding contact with them.
“Although the mode of transmission of Hansen's disease is not clearly defined, most investigators believe that (Hansen's) is usually spread person-to-person in respiratory droplets following extended close contact with an infected person, such as living in the same household,” Department of Health deputy press secretary Brad Dalton said, according to USA Today.
“Extended close contact with infected armadillos may also pose exposure risk to (Hansen's)," Dalton added. "For many cases, the exposure causing the infection is unknown because it can take months or years for illness to develop. Generally, you don't want to be playing with wild animals anyway.”
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, CDC via CBS Miami