Florida has reported three confirmed cases of a disease previously believed to have been eradicated within the United States by most people. They occurred in Volusia County during the last five months. After examining the infected patients, health care officials believe that at least two of them contracted leprosy from contact with armadillos. Scientists have long known that the leathery creatures are carriers of leprosy in the southern United States.
Most humans are not susceptible to the bacteria which causes the disease. Those who do have the proclivity to contract the disease are infected through droplets from the nose or mouth, or who have had close contact with individuals who are currently ill from leprosy, but had not yet been treated with prescribed medication.
The disease progresses slowly and can take up to 20 years for its incubation period to fully mature. Leprosy affects the skin, respiratory tract lining, peripheral nerves and the eyes. Over time outward disfigurations can occur including tumors on the skin, disfigurement of bone and cartilage, and collapsed facial features. ‘Claw-hands’ sometimes transpire.
Over 100 cases of leprosy are reported each year in the United States. Nearly all of them are discovered in the southern part of the nation.
Leprosy is easily treated today through medication, and presents no life-threatening danger.