Three new cases of leprosy have been reported in Volusia County, Florida since October 2014. Two of these cases are believed to be linked to direct contact with nine-banded armadillos which are suspected to be carriers of the bacteria that cause leprosy.
Leprosy, commonly known as Hansen’s disease is caused by Mycobacterium leprae. It is a disease that can affect the skin and nerves as well as the respiratory tract and lead to facial and extremity disfigurement. It is now a rare and quite treatable disease.
While leprosy can spread from person to person by droplets (from sneezing or coughing) or direct contact with secretions, it is possible that exposure to feces and direct contact with armadillos may be a more important mode of transmission in settings where armadillos live among humans.
National Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) Program director Dr. David Scollard says "the fear of this disease is really irrational and inordinate. There are other diseases that are much more problematic than this.” He maintains that there should be no concern about this becoming the next outbreak.