It is estimated that around 150 to 250 people tend to get leprosy in the US every year, and majority of these people contract this disease while traveling to places where leprosy is prevalent. Countries like Brazil, Africa, India and the Philippines still have a problem with leprosy, which is caused by a bacterium. However, researchers have now found that people can get leprosy from armadillos.
Leprosy is a highly contagious bacterial infection, which can cause severe nerve damage. With this recent research, it now seems that the disease, also called Hansen's disease, has the ability to jump from one species to another. It is estimated that in some places nearly 20 percent of the armadillos are infected by the leprosy-causing bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae. The known hosts of this bacterium are armadillos and humans. (See Reference 1)
According to researchers, even a casual contact with an infected armadillo can result in leprosy, and that is why it is recommended that people refrain from consuming armadillo meat, or even touching an armadillo. Maximum cases of leprosy caused by armadillos are found in Texas and Louisiana, the two states where people tend to hunt and consume armadillos. (See Reference 1)
While leprosy can be treated with the help of antibiotics, in the US diagnosis of the disease in people who have not traveled outside the country gets delayed. This new finding that armadillos can cause leprosy will help get a faster diagnosis among people who have managed to get infected without going to countries where the disease is prevalent. (See Reference 1)
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