Leprosy or Hansen’s disease is a notorious but rare disease, and there are typically 50 to 100 cases in the United States every year, according to Dr. Sunil Joshi, the president –elect of Florida’s Duval County Medical Society. In most years, around four to ten of those cases occur in Florida. Last year, there were 27 confirmed cases of leprosy in the Sunshine State – and five more cases were reported during the first five weeks of 2016.
According to Joshi, the increase in cases is likely due to increased contact with armadillos.The nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) is one of the few creatures that can carry the bacterium that causes leprosy. Armadillos can also be found throughout the whole state of Florida.Dr. Joshi went on to explain that the increased development in Florida is disrupting the armadillos’ habitats and habits.
Armadillos are typically nocturnal, but more are coming out in the daytime. They are about the size of domestic cats, and their strange appearance can encourage people to examine them up close.Armadillos can carry other diseases, including rabies, and they are also destructive burrowers.The Florida Department of Health advises people to avoid touching armadillos and to keep their pets away from them.
If somebody spots an armadillo or signs of an armadillo burrow, like a hole about the size of a football surrounded by mounds of dirt, they should call a professional pest control service to have them removed.