Yes, you read that correctly, Leprosy.  A term you maybe recall was in the Bible has impacted Florida.

What Exactly is Leprosy?

Leprosy is also known as Hansen's disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes leprosy as “an infection caused by slow-growing bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. It can affect the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose (nasal mucosa).”

[Inserts Blank Stare] Well, we all need our nerves (even though people work them constantly), skin, eyes, and the lining of the nose.  

Florida Scare

Honestly, I have heard much about Leprosy in the United States but then again, I wasn’t looking for it. According to the International Leprosy Association, “Leprosy spread to the southern states of the United States between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The first known cases of leprosy in Louisiana were in 1758.”

World Leprosy Day 2015
Getty Images

Wait, Alabama is in the southern states.

Information has been released that there has been a gradual increase in the United States since a peak in 1983.  Now it has been announced that “159 new cases were reported in the U.S. in 2020 (the most recent year for which data are available),” said the Health Resources & Service Administration (HRSA).

Florida was cited as the top reporting state and “Central Florida, in particular, accounted for 81% of cases reported in Florida and almost one-fifth of nationally reported cases,” said the CDC.

[Wait, what?] I’m traveling to Central Florida in a few weeks. And it’s a known fact that many Alabamians travel to all different parts of Florida for vacation and some even own homes.

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How Do You Contract Hansen Disease?

Scientists at the CDC believe that you can’t contract leprosy from casual contact like hugging, sitting next to someone, shaking hands, etc.

However, they believe it may happen when a person with the disease coughs or sneezes and a healthy person breathes in the droplets that contain the bacteria.

Also, the CDC mentioned that “prolonged, close contact with someone with untreated leprosy over many months is needed to catch the disease.”

Don’t Mess with Armadillos

What I just learned today, is that armadillos in the “southern United States, some armadillos are naturally infected with the bacteria that cause Hansen’s disease in people and it may be possible that they can spread it to people,” said the CDC.

Reason #1,298 Why I Don’t Do the Outdoors … Armadillos

Yet another reason to dislike those animals. They dig holes in your backyard and now this. In the early 2000s, my backyard in Helena was covered in the handy work of a pack of savage armadillos. I even called the police department to find out if I would be thrown in jail for shooting one in my backyard. Short answer, yes. But, I think I was willing to risk it.

Back to Leprosy, that’s crazy. I’ll continue to monitor and report back with any new information.

(Source) Click here for more insight from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Click here fore more details from the International Leprosy Association. Click here for more information from the Health Resources & Service Administration.

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