JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Leprosy cases in Florida are higher than normal, and experts are blaming armadillos.
WJAX-TV reports that nine cases have been reported across Florida so far this year, already nearly matching the state’s average of 10 cases per year, according to the Department of Health.
Dr. Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval County Medical Society, says each case this year has involved people who were in direct contact with armadillos.
According to the Center for Disease Control, armadillos are the only animal to carry leprosy, a bacterial disease that affects the skin and nerves. The disease can be spread through saliva.
The most recent diagnosis for leprosy came in Flagler County three weeks ago.
Joshi says these occurrences are still very rare, but urged people to stay away from the animal.
After many of our users contacted WFLA’s Facebook Page, we called a Tampa Veterinarian to find out about the dangers to household pets. Davis Island’s veterinarian, Dr. Steven Lewis says that armadillo bites can be dangerous just like bites of other rodents because of the bacteria transmitted to the animal.
Lewis says, “If your dog or cat is infected, you would see it develop skin issues, or lesions usually in the form of nodules on the ears or head most likely caused my mycobacteria known as “leproid granuloma syndrome.” It can be treated with the proper drugs. He added that he has never had to treat an armadillo bite.