According to the latest health reports, armored armadillos are responsible for a recent leprosy outbreak in Florida. The health experts said that nine people have been diagnosed with leprosy after coming in contact with the animal. Following these recent leprosy cases, wildlife experts are advising people to stay away from armadillos and avoid any kind of physical contact.
In 2015, nine people from Florida were diagnosed with Hansen’s disease, which is the official name for leprosy. The disease is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, which was found on nine armadillos, according to Brad Dalton of the Florida Department of Health. Dalton said there are 2 to 10 cases of leprosy in Florida occurring every year and this one is no exception.
Dr. Richard Truman, from the National Hansen’s Disease Program in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, explained that the patients who were diagnosed with leprosy reported that they had come in contact with armadillos. Dr. Truman said that genetics plays an important role in the development of the disease after a person has come in contact with an armadillo.
According to Dr. Truman, many people between Louisiana and Texas and the southern part of the United States come in contact, direct or indirect, with armadillos daily. Any wild animals can carry diseases that are very dangerous to people, but if the animal is not touched and people are cautious, they could avoid contracting the disease and remain safe.
Wildlife trappers said people risk contracting leprosy if they try to approach the armadillo and capture them. The wild animal panics, tries to escape and often bites and scratches its attacker, thus infecting the human with a dangerous disease.
According to the Unites States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, armadillos are the only wild animals known to carry the leprosy bacteria. Leprosy is a very dangerous disease that affects the nerves, skin, eyes and respiratory tract. It is cause by the mycobacterium laprae, a bacillus that is known as the “wimp of a pathogen”. The bacteria can be transmitted if a person comes in contact with the nose or mouth droplets from an infected animal.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that armadillos are small animals, the size of a cat, that although are not native to Florida, they are often found all over the state.
The first symptoms of leprosy include skin lesions, neurological problems, such as psychotic behavior and seizures.
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