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Don’t hug the armadillos: Florida leprosy cases on the rise

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Health officials are warning residents to avoid contact with armadillos. Florida is seeing more leprosy cases than usual, and armadillos can be carriers.

Leprosy cases are on the rise in Florida. Florida has had nine confirmed cases so far in 2015.

The state typically sees two to twelve cases per year. That’s prompted the Florida Department of Health to warn residents to avoid armadillos, which can be carriers of the disease.

Mirna Chamorro, the public information officer for the Orange County Department of Health, said residents should avoid handling armadillos.

“If they are hunting or if they are trying to remove an armadillo from the area or their backyards, try and not handle them or if you need to do so, use gloves and not have direct contact with them,” Chamorro said.

Florida’s latest leprosy case was diagnosed in Flagler County earlier this month. Leprosy infects the skin and peripheral nerves.

Leprosy is treatable with antibiotics, but untreated patients can spread the disease.

The U.S. typically sees 200 to 250 new cases per year. Incubation can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years.

WMFE is a partner with Health News Florida, a statewide collaborative reporting on health care.

Health reporting on WMFE is supported in part by AdventHealth.

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Abe Aboraya

About Abe Aboraya

Health Reporter

Abe Aboraya started writing for newspapers in High School. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe ... Read Full Bio »