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Leprosy back? Should we be worried?

Mar 04, 2015 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
It was a shocking headline—Three people in Florida have been diagnosed with leprosy in the past five months. Really? Surely leprosy doesn’t exist anymore. And certainly not in a developed nation such as the U.S. of A.

But that ancient sounding scourge does still occur—just rarely and we are now able to treat it with antibiotics, usually taken for six months to two years.

Otherwise known as Hansen’s disease, leprosy is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the skin, as well as causing severe pain, muscle weakness, paralysis, and upper respiratory symptoms. The number of cases and causes of transmission are tough to track because Hansen’s has an incubation period that ranges from nine months to 20 years.

What is known about these Florida cases is that some of those infected had “interacted” with armadillos, known carriers of the disease. So we should all rest easy—and stay away from armadillos.

--Sarah Hagerty
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