Authorities Warn Leprosy On The Rise

| by Sheena Vasani
Armadillo Armadillo

Authorities are warning Americans to be careful of an infectious disease: leprosy.

Nine confirmed cases of leprosy, also called Hansen's disease, have already been reported in Florida, WFTS reports.

Experts say they believe armadillos, which sometimes wander around residential areas in some parts of the U.S., may be carrying the disease.

One woman recalls finding one on her driveway in broad daylight while walking her dogs.

“I didn’t know what it was and [the dogs] were both looking under the car and not even barking. I think they were afraid of him too,” she said.

Pets and other animals cannot get leprosy from armadillos, but they can carry rabies. They can also infect humans with leprosy.

“Armadillos can carry Hansen’s disease," said Mike Spinola with All Pro Wildlife, KSN reports. “It is a form of leprosy that can be given from armadillos to humans through direct skin contact or ingesting the food, people who handle them without proper care.”

Leprosy can be highly contagious.

"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," said Brad Dalton, deputy press secretary for Florida's health department, reports USA Today.

While authorities were able to remove the armadillo the dogs found, it is not the only out there.

Spinola says he found 40 armadillos in one Florida neighborhood alone thanks to the rain that fills dirt with bugs they like to eat.

Authorities says those who stay clear of armadillos should be fine, but warn parents to be careful.

"Teach your kids to stay away from them. Don't try to pet them and don't try to grab them," Karen Parker, spokeswoman for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said.

Some don’t believe armadillos should be feared.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that most people who come into contact for a short amount of time with the animals are unlikely to catch Hansen’s disease.

It's still important to avoid contact with armadillos.

"Generally, you don't want to be playing with wild animals anyway," Dalton said.

Sources: WFTSKSN, USA Today / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Is leprosy a serious threat to public health?
Yes - 0%
Yes - 0%