In 2015, experts blamed armadillos for higher than normal leprosy cases in the state.
Back in 2019, I wrote about the “biblical disease” known as leprosy, as cases were being reported in the Los Angeles area.
Dr. Ochoa and colleagues identified 187 patients with the disease in a review of medical records from their leprosy clinic spanning 1973 to 2018. Most patients were Latino, originating from Mexico, and they experienced a median delay in diagnosis of more than three years, the team reports JAMA Dermatology, online August 7.
Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that the number of leprosy cases has increased dramatically in Florida, and health experts fear the infectious disease is now endemic to the Sunshine State.
Central Florida accounts for nearly one-fifth of all cases in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and for 81% of the cases reported in Florida.
Also known as Hansen’s disease, leprosy is usually spread during lengthy person-to-person contact through airborne droplets from the nose and mouth of an infected person.
Historically, leprosy has been uncommon in the US, and most cases have come from people who immigrated from countries where the disease is more common.
But since 2000, cases of leprosy have gradually increased, and have more than doubled over the past decade.
The CDC indicates that Central Florida accounted for 81% of cases reported in Florida. The last time a surge was noted, armadillos were blamed.
“Leprosy has been historically uncommon in the United States; incidence peaked around 1983, and a drastic reduction in the annual number of documented cases occurred from the 1980s through 2000,” the letter’s authors wrote. “However, since then, reports demonstrate a gradual increase in the incidence of leprosy in the United States. The number of reported cases has more than doubled in the southeastern states over the last decade.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Florida make headlines for leprosy cases. In 2015, experts blamed armadillos for higher than normal leprosy cases in the state.
As it appears that Americans will be dealing with another endemic disease, it’s perhaps worthwhile to refresh our understanding of leprosy.
Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae that primarily affects the skin and peripheral nervous system. It can sometimes infect other parts of the body like the lining in the airway passages of the nose, according to the Florida Department of Health. It has been around for thousands of years, with the earliest known records appearing in China and India around 600 B.C.
Despite its biblical description, the disease is not easily spread and about 95% of people have natural protective immunity, according to the FDOH. Leprosy can be easy to treat, especially if it’s addressed early. However, going without treatment can result in permanent nerve damage.
The Mycobacterium leprae bacteria is slow growing and it can often take years for signs and symptoms to develop following exposure to the bacteria. Once the first sign of infection appears, it can take anywhere between two weeks to months for it to progress.
Florida is not the only state with leprosy cases.
The CDC letter cites research from the National Hansen’s Disease Program that lists these as the states that had the most new leprosy cases in 2020:
- New York
The list of states was based on data from 2020 which is the most recent year for which data is available.
The CDC states that about 150 people get infected with the disease in the U.S. annually. There was a recent case in Texas in which a man in his 20s sought treatment for a rash, which turned out to be leprosy.
Initial tests could not show what was wrong with him when he went to a dermatologist, after suffering numbness and tingling in the patches on his skin for three months.
But after sending a sample of his skin to a specialist laboratory, results showed he had leprosy.
…He was heavily tattooed and moved to the US from Samoa — where leprosy is still endemic — four years before he was diagnosed.
Medics put him on a course of antibiotics recommended by the WHO for treating leprosy and his symptoms improved after two months.
He had surgery on his tendons and occupational therapy to help return movement to his hand and was still undergoing antibiotics after a year.
Leftists are quick to blame Gov. Ron DeSantis
Also malaria and leprosy. A man shall be known by the fruits of his labor. 🤔🤔 https://t.co/8Jjce50kTm
— reginald edwards (@reginaldedward3) July 31, 2023
I conclude by pointing out that while wasting time, energy, resources, and billions of tax dollars on covid response, the CDC has neither controlled nor prevented this ancient plague from returning. Perhaps that is where the response effort should have been? Why should this agency continue to exist, if it continually fails at its mission?
Perhaps we should be grateful that they aren’t blaming armadillos again.DONATE
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