The Sunshine State has surpassed their average annual number of leprosy cases of ten in July as the latest data puts the state total at 12 with two additional cases reported in the past two weeks.
Two weeks ago, the 11th case was reported in Lakeland in Polk County, while the most recent case has been reported in the past week in Jacksonville in Duval County.
During the ten-year-period of 2004 to 2014, Florida reported 92 cases, averaging less than 10 per year.
To date in 2015, Florida has seen 12 leprosy cases, compared to the entirety of 2014, which saw 10 cases.
Florida health officials have pointed to armadillos as the source of the bacterial disease. The Associated Press reported today that Dr. Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval County Medical Society, said each case this year has involved people who were in direct contact with armadillos.
Armadillos are the only other known natural hosts of leprosy bacteria.
The National Hansen’s Disease Program (NHDP) notes that the risk of transmission from animals to humans is low, but armadillos are wild animals and should be treated as such, with all proper precautions.
Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease is a chronic bacterial disease characterized by the involvement primarily of skin as well as peripheral nerves and the mucosa of the upper airway.
The United States sees approximately 150 to 250 leprosy cases annually. 213 new cases were reported in the U.S. in 2009 (the most recent year for which data are available).