You don’t normally hear about leprosy cases today in the United States, but a warning has gone out to Floridians to beware. Nine cases have been reported in the state so far this year, and the cause is thought to be armadillos.
What’s the connection?
Armadillos are common in Florida, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they are the only animal to carry leprosy, a bacterial disease that affects the skin and nerves. Each of the Florida cases this year involved people who were in direct contact with armadillos, and the disease can be spread through saliva. What’s more startling, the Department of Health reports that an average of 10 Floridians are diagnosed every year, so having 9 people already infected this year is a huge jump.
“It is a devastating illness if you do get it,” said Dr. Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval County Medical Society, to WJAX-TV. “It is still very, very unlikely to cause problems but be aware of armadillos and stay away from them.”
While armadillos are nocturnal, it is currently breeding season so experts warn that you may come across some babies during the day. They may be cute, but they can also carry the disease, so make sure you and your kids stay clear of them.