In the past five months Florida health officials have confirmed three new cases of Leprosy in Volusia County, Florida. The likely culprit for spreading the disease has been identified as the armadillo.
Forbes reports that the three cases were all diagnosed between October 2014 and February 2015. The Florida health officials have noted that armadillos are the likely source of the Leprosy cases. In fact, it is noted by the CDC that the majority of the Leprosy cases seen in the United States occur in the south where the population of armadillos is large.
The World Health Organization notes that “Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, an acid-fast, rod-shaped bacillus. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and also the eyes.” Though the disease was once considered a horrific and highly contagious disease, modern day medicine has made Leprosy “curable with treatment.” If Leprosy is found in its early stages, treatment consists of antibiotics and will prevent any future disability from the bacteria.
“In 1981, a WHO Study Group recommended MDT. MDT consists of 3 drugs: dapsone, rifampicin and clofazimine and this drug combination kills the pathogen and cures the patient.”
WHO notes that Leprosy has a very long incubation period. Therefore, it is hard to pinpoint exactly where a Leprosy outbreak may have originated. The incubation period is anywhere from five to 20 years. This means that the three people with confirmed Leprosy cases in Florida were likely infected five to 20 years ago.
Health officials in Florida are telling people in the public not to be “overly concerned” about Leprosy as it is highly uncommon with fewer than 10 cases reported in Florida each year. Should an individual be diagnosed with Leprosy, treatment options are very effective. It was noted that prior to the three recent cases, Volusia County only had one new case in the past decade.
ABC News is painting a less optimistic picture of the recent Florida Leprosy cases noting that another county, Brevard County, has also seen an increase in cases over the past few years. Brevard County has seen 18 cases of confirmed Leprosy in the past 5 years, up from the typical one case per year. Barry Inman, an epidemiologist for Brevard County Department of Health, commented on the situation.
“Compared to past history, it is significant and they are looking at it.”
Are the Florida Leprosy cases a cause for concern? Did you know that cases of Leprosy still pop up from time-to-time in the United States?