Health officials in Florida are now warning that touching, or consuming armadillos may cause you to become infected with the very rare leprosy. Florida is at the center of a spike in cases of leprosy, and the culprit is not who you probably expected to be carrying the debilitating disease.
Experts warn that those who choose to come in contact with armadillos will be at a greater risk of contracting the disease, and believe this may be the cause in the unexpected rise in leprosy diagnosis in 2015.
Why are the armadillos infecting everyone with leprosy?
There are very few cases of leprosy reported every year, and one of the few known ways to contract leprosy in the United States is through contact with armadillos according to information provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC): “Some armadillos in the southern United States are naturally infected with Hansen’s disease. While it’s possible for you to get the disease from an armadillo, the risk is low. Most people who come into contact with armadillos are unlikely to get Hansen’s disease.”
While the odds of becoming infected by an armadillo are relatively low, they remain the most well-known carrier of leprosy. This knowledge leads experts to conclude an increase in the number of cases of leprosy must correlate to an increase in armadillo contact, and pleads that the public fight the urge to come into contact with these adorable shelled mammals.
Should we be concerned that an outbreak of leprosy will occur?
Experts emphasize that there is really no need to be concerned about contracting leprosy, because the odds of contracting the disease are minuscule. In addition, with proper care the disease is highly treatable.
According to the CDC, the odds of contracting leprosy even when coming in direct contact are only about 5% and “most adults around the world, however, might face no risk at all… because evidence shows that 95% of all adults are naturally unable to get the disease, even if they’re exposed to the bacteria that causes it.” There is really very little reason to panic about becoming infected because although the recent statistics show more people becoming infected, the odds are still very low even with direct contact.
What is it like to be a leper?
Some symptoms of leprosy can take anywhere from 2-10 years to fully develop, but the first signs will appear in the form of skin lesions, and damaged nerves. Treatment options are readily available to eliminate the disease, and with proper medical care including antibiotics it can be eradicated in a period from 6 months to 2 years.
While the increase in the number of cases of leprosy in Florida has caused experts to urge the public to stay away from armadillos altogether to avoid leprosy, the cuddly creatures have always contained the rare disease, and the chances of contracting the illness continue to remain very unlikely.