Ancient Disease Carried by Armadillos Popping up in Florida

Armadillo from Brazil

Photo: klausbalzano / iStock / Getty Images

The ancient infectious disease, leprosy, is popping up in the Sunshine state and may be endemic.

In the last decade 11 cases of leprosy have been reported in South Florida.

FIU infectious diseases expert Dr. Aileen Marty says leprosy is carried by animals like armadillos and can be acquired by breathing in the bacteria.

Dr. Marty says 95-percent of the population has a natural immunity to leprosy, but older, immuno-compromised people are more susceptible.

Also known as Hansen's disease, leprosy affects the nerves and the skin.

Dr. Marty says, "Leprosy is around, but it is treatable."

She adds that the disease is treatable but highly contagious and can be passed from infected animals.

Florida reported three cases of leprosy in 2024.

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