Science & Tech

Leprosy is making a comeback in Florida

Leprosy is making a comeback in Florida
Leprosy cases rising in Florida

Leprosy cases are rising in Florida - which doesn't sound at all alarming.

According to new report published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 159 leprosy cases were reported in the US in 2020, with Florida being the most reported state. Central Florida accounted for 81 percent of the state’s cases and almost one-fifth of those in the US.

“This information suggests that leprosy has become an endemic disease process in Florida, warranting further research into other methods of autochthonous transmission,” the report read.

Also known as Hansen's disease, leprosy is a long-term infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis, which can lead to damage to the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. Symptoms include discolored patches of skin, unusual growths on the skin, ulcers on the soles of feet, painless swelling of the face, numbness, and potential paralysis.

Sometimes it gets so bad that people need their limbs amputated, but this is very rare.

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So why is this happening? Scientists are confused and not sure how leprosy spreads in general. It’s believed that prolonged close contact with an untreated leprosy case, perhaps over the course of many months, is needed to catch the disease.

Armadillos are known to carry the bacteria in parts of southern Florida, so it could be that, but cases are on the rise in other parts of the US where armadillos don’t naturally live.

Thankfully, around 95 percent of people have a natural immunity to leprosy and for those unlucky to get it, it is also treatable with antibiotics if caught on time.

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