According to Health officials in Florida three people in Volusia County have been tested positive for leprosy. Two of the three cases have been linked to close contact with nine banded armadillo which is suspected to be the carrier of the bacteria in Southern U.S. as per the paper which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2011. The paper analyzed the genomes of the wild armadillo along with three leprosy patients.
Leprosy is also known as Hansen disease after Gerhard Armauer Hansen who had proved that leprosy was a specific disease with a specific cause and not hereditary or caused due to bad air. Most humans are not susceptible to the bacteria. The disease is transmitted via discharge from the nose or the mouth. It is also transmitted by close contact with someone who is sick but was not treated medically with drugs.
The pathogen multiplies extremely slowly in the human body. The incubation period could be as long as 20 years before the first visible symptoms are seen. The skin, peripheral nerves, lining of the respiratory tract and eyes are most affected by the disease. If left untreated it can further damage tissues, cause deformity of the skin, bone and cartilage. As the disease progresses tumor-like growths, collapsed facial features and claw hands are other symptoms which accompany late stages of leprosy.
Often people think that leprosy is a disease which has disappeared since Biblical times and it was often thought to be a curse for one’s sins. As per ‘WHO’ data there are 189,018 known cases and 232,857 new cases diagnosed worldwide in 2012. Leprosy is still prevalent in Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Burma, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Tanzania
As per figures released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 100 new cases of leprosy, seen mostly in the southern states including Texas, Louisiana and Florida. Just over 2,300 new cases of leprosy have been diagnosed in the US between 1994 and 2011.