A surge in leprosy cases in the United States, primarily Florida, has led experts to believe Central Florida is now experiencing an epidemic of the disease.
Also known as Hansen’s disease, leprosy, according to the CDC, is an infection caused by bacteria which can affect the nerves, skin, eyes and lining of the nose.
The most recent data available in the U.S. is from the year 2020, when 159 new cases occurred. However, around 200,000 cases still pop up annually around the world, mainly in southeastern Asia and India, according to The New York Times.
Researcher Dr. Charles Dunn, who wrote a report on the disease by the CDC, stated that indirect contact may be at play with the transfer of the disease to people instead of direct contact with armadillos, who are known carriers of leprosy.
“It’s possible that indirect contact with soil carrying bacterial DNA from an armadillo could be the missing link in leprosy transmission, but no studies have been conducted at this time,” Dunn said, according to an article from WMFE in Orlando, Fla.
While news of the disease has garnered national attention, Andrea Maderal, a Florida physician, says her field has been aware of leprosy on an endemic level and that no cause for alarm is necessary.
“We have known for some time about endemic cases of leprosy,” Maderal said in a piece she wrote for STAT, “However, given how rare the disease is in the state there is no cause for alarm.”
The World Health Organization expressed urgent concern of the global situation surrounding leprosy back in January which is also the month for World Leprosy Day. This year, the theme for the day was “Act Now. End Leprosy.”
Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia, expressed the need for the current generation to stop the transmission of the disease.
“Leprosy has afflicted humanity for millennia,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said in a news release from WHO. “[H]owever, we can be the generation that ends the transmission of leprosy, end suffering, ensuring we leave no one behind.”
Edited by: James Sutton