Outbreak News Today

Florida reports 16 confirmed leprosy cases in 2017

After reporting 29 and 18 leprosy cases, in 2015 and 2016, respectively, Florida health officials reported 16 confirmed leprosy, or Hansen’s disease cases in 2017.

Eight counties reported cases with Brevard and Volusia reporting five cases each. Broward, Collier, Miami-Dade, Osceola, Pasco and Polk counties reported one case each.

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It is not noted how the patients contracted the bacterial disease.

Prior to 2015, Florida reported 2 to 12 cases annually.

Hansen’s disease, formerly known as leprosy, is caused by Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae )bacteria. The infection has also been identified in nine-banded armadillos. Approximately 95 percent of people are resistant to infection; people who develop clinical illness can experience a wide range of clinical manifestations, but typically develop infections involving the skin, peripheral nerves and nasal mucosa.

LISTEN: Hansen’s Disease, or leprosy in the US

Although the mode of transmission of Hansen’s disease is not clearly defined, most investigators believe that M. leprae is usually spread person-to-person in respiratory droplets following extended close contact with an infected person, such as living in the same household. Extended close contact with infected armadillos may also pose exposure risk to M. leprae.  For many cases, the exposure causing the infection is unknown because it can take months or years for illness to develop.

Hansen’s Disease, or leprosy, continues to be a rare condition. It is advised that people avoid interacting with any wild animals, including armadillos.