The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) is warning people to stay away from armadillos in Florida, as they’re the only animals currently carrying leprosy. Cases of the disease have already skyrocketed compared to previous years and Floridians are cautioned to stay away.
The yearly average of leprosy patients in the Sunshine State is of 10, and yet 9 cases have already been reported by July, according to the Department of Health. And it’s apparently the cause of people coming into contact with armadillos, touching the unassuming and innocent looking animal.
While it’s no longer the lethal disease it once was during biblical times, leprosy is still active in the world and annually infects 100 people in the United States only. Caused by the mycobacterium laprae, leprosy is still common among the southern states, such as Texas and Luisiana, and can be spread easily through saliva or other forms of sputum ejected by the nose. It can remain dormant for a period of 4 to 20 years and can have severe effects if left untreated.
Nerve and skin damage, muscle weakness and other permanent disabilities may be caused by the disease, but it’s fortunately treatable through antibiotics, so it’s no longer the limb atrophying illness it once was. With proper treatment, the pictures of hands and legs falling off is no longer an accurate depiction of its effects.
Regardless, Floridians are cautioned within their outdoor activities and warned that they should not go anywhere near armadillos in order to avoid a potential infection. While it’s easily treatable, leprosy can still cause a good amount of damage that should best be avoided.
The spike in numbers of cases reported could be due to the fact that the state is currently undergoing construction, with houses being build and their natural habitats being destroyed in the process. This might have caused the normally nocturnal creature to roll out of their home and venture out among humans even during the day.
They are a common creature across Florida and may not need to bite in order to transmit the disease. Cages or scared armadillos have the defensive reflex to spit when they find themselves trapped or otherwise frightened for their lives, which will be enough to pass on the leprosy that they naturally carry.
People are warned against any sort of contact with the creatures and to be careful when venturing outside not to accidentally scare them and spark their natural defenses that might just infect you with leprosy.
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