Florida Becoming a Hotbed for Leprosy, More Cases Reported Than Any Other State
Leprosy is on the rise in Florida, as the state accounts for almost one-fifth of nationally reported cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also known as Hansen’s disease, the stubborn condition has been plaguing society since biblical times.
While leprosy remains rare in the United States, it’s still considered an epidemic in other parts of the world. Florida’s sudden surge in cases has become a cause for concern.
Lepers Were Banished From Society In Medieval Times
Leprosy was prevalent thousands of years ago, and was even referenced in the Bible. Though it was more common back then, leprosy was widely misunderstood.
Those suffering from the disease would often be looked down upon and would be banished from their communities, even though leprosy isn’t very contagious. Fortunately, there are many treatments for leprosy and around 95% of people are naturally immune.
Leprosy Is Caused by a Parasitic Bacteria That Can Cause Paralysis
Like many diseases, leprosy comes with a host of unpleasant symptoms that affect the skin and nervous system. Stemming from a bacterial infection, leprosy wreaks havoc on the nerves and shows up as a red, bumpy rash on the skin.
Leprosy can lead to swelling, cracked skin, thinning eyelashes, and muscle weakness. If left untreated, the disease can result in paralysis and other permanent disabilities.
Reports Suggest That Some People Have Gotten Leprosy Without Ever Leaving Florida
Leprosy is typically contracted in foreign countries where the disease is more prevalent, but recent cases show that some have been infected without ever traveling outside the U.S.
In one report, a 54-year-old man with leprosy experienced painful lesions on his body and swelling on his face, arms, and feet. He had been a resident of Florida his whole life and never had any known exposure to anyone with the disease.
We Don’t Know for Sure How Leprosy Is Contracted
Despite being around for thousands of years, there is little knowledge about how leprosy is spread from person to person. We do know that it’s difficult to catch, and casual contact such as a handshake or sitting next to someone won’t result in infection.
It is believed that leprosy is mostly transmitted through respiratory droplets. On average, the U.S. sees between 150-250 cases of leprosy annually.