9 people in Florida caught leprosy from armadillos this year: 5 things to know

Nine cases of people with Hansen's disease — also known as leprosy — have been reported in Florida so far this year, and all were linked to contact with armadillos, according to a WTLV report.

The following are five things to know about Hansen's disease and the most recent Florida cases.

1. Hansen's disease is caused by Mycobacterium leprae bacteria, which multiplies slowly and mainly affects skin, nerves and mucous membranes, according to the CDC.

2. The bacteria that causes Hansen's disease can be spread from person to person, according to the CDC, usually when someone coughs or sneezes. Evidence shows that 95 percent of adults are not able to get Hansen's disease, even if exposed to Mycobacterium leprae, the CDC reports.

3. Some armadillos in the U.S., especially in the southern part of the country, are naturally infected with the disease. Usually the risk of getting Hansen's disease from an armadillo is low, according to the CDC, but the agency still recommends avoiding contact with the animals. All nine Florida cases this year are associated with direct contact with the unique-looking mammals.

4. The average number of Hansen's disease cases each year in Florida falls between two and 12, according to the WTLV. According to a Health Resources and Services Administration report, there were 294 total new cases reported in the United States in 2010, the last year such data was available.

5. Even though leprosy was once feared to be highly dangerous, it is easily treated. Usually it is treated for six months to two years with antibiotics. The number of active cases in the U.S. requiring drug treatment or management is around 3,300.

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