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Leprosy cases are on the rise in Florida, armadillos may be to blame

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- So far this year nine leprosy cases have been reported across Florida.According to the Department of Health the state averages 10 cases per year.

The most recent leprosy diagnosis came in Flagler County three weeks ago.

Past reported cases include one in Martin County in 2013 and one in St. Lucie County in 2007.

Armadillos are the only animal to carry leprosy, a bacterial disease that affects the skin and nerves, according to the Center for Disease Control.

The disease can be spread through saliva.

Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is spread primarily through human to human contact, and can be brought in from people traveling to the U.S. from other countries said Vilma Vega, M.D., of Infectious Disease Associates.

Don Swerida, DVM, of Dr Don's Mobile Vet and Laurel Road Veterinary Clinic, has worked on injured Armadillo's and said we will likely see more of these mammals, because human beings are encroaching on their habitat.

"We have to learn to live with these creatures, because even a little armadillo serves a purpose like eating unwanted bugs and meat off carcasses," said Dr. Swerida.

He advised calling Venice Wildlife if you find an injured Arnmadillo.

Leprosy is an Infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, which primarily affects the skin and peripheral nerves

Since the 1940s, the disease is considered treatable and even curable, about 95 percent of world's population has natural immunity to the bacteria.

Leprosy's incubation period is bout 5 years; Symptoms can take as long as 20 years to appear.

The disease is most commonly seen in Hawaii, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, California, Massachusetts, New York

Until 1975, Florida saw an average of four cases reported each year, with 80 percent of 226 cases occurring in Monroe, Dade and Hillsborough counties.

Information sources include; Florida Department of Health; Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, World Health Organization.