Number of Armadillo leprosy cases on the rise in Florida

Florida, USA – Already nine armadillo leprosy cases have been reported in Florida, a number that reaches last years’ limits.

Brad Dalton, deputy press secretary of the Department of Health, stated that in Florida, 2 up to 10 confirmed cases of the skin disease occur yearly.

Health officials in Florida issued a warning recently to avoid touching armadillos because of the increase of leprosy cases that are linked to such animals. All cases did involve individuals who had direct armadillo contact.

Dalton added though that transmission of this disease is not yet clearly defined, but most experts believe that it is usually passed from person-to-person because of respiratory droplets during extended close contact.

The bacteria are transmitted by fluids from the mouth and nose, and the disease is associated with many unpleasant symptoms. This includes skin lesions which last for a couple weeks or even months that can even cause permanent disfigurement. Over time, it damages the body’s peripheral nerve system, the eyes and also the nasal passages. It also may cause facial feature collapse and lead to claw-like hands.

Yesterday, Florida health officials with the goal of facilitating media interviews about the much published issue provided an informational YouTube video about the disease. It was presented by Dr. Carina Blackmore, a Deputy State Epidemiologist.

The CDC website meanwhile stated that a few armadillos that grace the United States’ southern regions are natural disease carriers. The federal agency also noted that it is still rampant in other areas. This includes parts of China, West Africa, Southeast Asia, and India, and 232,857 cases are estimated worldwide in 2012. These figures were reported by WHO that represents reports from 115 countries.

The NHDP also noted that the leprosy transmission risk from animals towards humans is very low, but it is still important to treat armadillos as wild animals with all the proper precautions.