Armadillos can transmit leprosy to humans

About one-third of U.S. leprosy cases come from infected armadillos, say researchers

U.S. researchers have confirmed that infected armadillos are transmitting leprosy to humans, with about one-third of leprosy cases that arise each year in the U.S. coming from the animals, the New York Times reports. These cases mostly occur in Louisiana and Texas, where some people hunt, skin and eat them. Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, has almost completely disappeared, although up to 250 people in the U.S. and 250,000 globally contract the illness each year. It can be treated with a one or two-year regimen of antibiotics if it’s caught quickly, but some people don’t recognize the illness and end up suffering for the rest of their lives. Two-thirds of leprosy patients in the U.S. are people who lived or worked in areas where the disease is endemic, like India, Brazil, Africa, and the Philippines. But each year, up to 80 people have symptoms without coming into contact with an infected person. Dr. Richard W. Truman, a researcher at the National Hansen’s Disease Program in Baton Rouge, La., says armadillos acquired the infectious disease from humans within the last 400 to 500 years. “The important thing is that people should be discouraged from consuming armadillo flesh or handling it,” Dr. Truman said.

The New York Times