Leprosy cases in Florida at 18, half in Brevard County
The number of confirmed leprosy cases in Florida stands at 18 in 2016 to date, down from the 28 cases reported in 2015, according to Florida Department of Health data. Like last year, Brevard County saw the most confirmed cases this year with nine, or half the state total.
Volusia County reported two cases while Alachua, Bay, Broward, Clay, Martin, Polk and Seminole counties reported one a piece.
175 new cases were reported in the U.S. in 2014 (the most recent year for which data are available). Most (128 or 73%) of these new cases were reported in Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, New York and Texas.
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.
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.
Research in the journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases shows that the nine-banded armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus), animals that naturally carry the leprosy bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae and have been linked to zoonotic infections, have spread their geography to affect more areas of the southeastern United States.
Leprosy is a chronic bacterial disease that primarily affects the skin, peripheral nerves and upper airway. Feared as a highly contagious and devastating disease, it is well established that Hansen’s disease (leprosy) is not highly transmissible, is very treatable, and, with early diagnosis and treatment, is not disabling.
Leprosy remains the most misunderstood human infectious disease. The stigma long associated with the disease still exists in most of the world and the psychological and social effects may be more difficult to deal with than the actual physical illness.