Doctors are reportedly warning against making contact with armadillos after a series of leprosy outbreaks that many believe are linked to the animal.
Leprosy, Newsiosity reported, is a disease that causes colored patches on the skin and can damage the eyes, nerves and limbs. In the 1980s, there were millions of known cases in the world – though the number of people who contract the disease has dropped to around 230,000 since then. The disease is also known as Hansen’s disease.
Though most new cases appear in just 16 countries, around 200 cases are reported in the U.S. per year. Florida, in particular, has seen a recent spike of cases this year. The state normally sees 10 cases per year, but nine have been reported since the beginning of 2017.
Researchers are warning that there is an uptick of leprosy cases in the United States. The Health Resources and Services Administration reported that there are currently about 6,500 cases of leprosy in the U.S. In the worst cases, fingers and toes are lost and victims are left blind.
The CDC is calling it “an emerging infectious disease.” Leprosy can be spread through respiratory droplets from someone with untreated leprosy– and children are more likely to get leprosy than adults.
However, a recent study has found that humans aren’t the only carriers of this ancient disease. A study on armadillos discovered that the armored mammals are the only non-human creatures that can carry the bacteria that cause leprosy.
The study, conducted by Dr Richard W. Truman and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that almost half of people with leprosy in the southeastern US — especially in Texas and Florida — were linked armadillos.