Florida health officials report 27 and 18 confirmed leprosy cases in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

To date in 2017, the number of confirmed cases have reached 12, according to Florida Department of Health data.

Florida map/National Atlas of the United States
Florida map/National Atlas of the United States

Brevard and Volusia counties have each reported multiple cases at four and three.

In addition, Broward, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco and Polk counties have each reported one confirmed case.

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

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. In Florida, between 2 and 12 cases are reported each year.

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