Florida is seeing an increase in LEPROSY cases with nearly 20% of cases across the country coming from the central part of the state
- Central Florida accounts for 81% of reported cases in the state
Mounting evidence points to the possibility that leprosy has become endemic in the southeastern United States, with Florida cited among the most reported states.
Florida is seeing an increase in leprosy cases lacking traditional risk factors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
He noted that Central Florida accounts for 81% of reported cases in the state and nearly one-fifth of reported cases nationally.
Leprosy, scientifically known as Hansen’s disease, is a chronic infectious disease that primarily affects the skin and peripheral nervous system.
The number of leprosy cases reported in southeastern states has more than doubled in the past decade, according to the CDC.
A 54-year-old man from central Florida was diagnosed with lepromatous leprosy in 2022. He sought treatment at a dermatology clinic for a painful and progressive erythematous rash. The lesions started on his distal extensor ends and progressed to involve his trunk and face
There were 159 new cases reported in the United States in 2020, the CDC said in a recently published research letter regarding emerging infectious diseases, citing data from the National Hansen’s Disease Program.
Nearly 70% of these new cases were reported in Florida, California, Louisiana, Hawaii, New York and Texas.
The CDC has recommended that travel to Florida be considered when doing leprosy contact tracing in any state.
He said several new patient cases in central Florida had shown no clear evidence of zoonotic exposure — transmission of pathogens from wild animals to humans — or traditionally known risk factors.
He added that leprosy was historically rare in the United States; with the incidence rate peaking around 1983 and a drastic reduction in the annual number of documented cases occurring from the 1980s to 2000.
However, since then, reports demonstrate a gradual increase in the incidence of leprosy in the United States.
Leprosy is a reportable disease in the State of Florida and is monitored primarily through passive surveillance.
Practitioners are required to report leprosy in the state the next business day, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Contact tracing is essential to identify sources and reduce transmission.
LEPROSY: CAUSE, SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT
Leprosy is a long-term infectious disease that can lead to inflammation of the nerves, airways, skin and eyes. In 2012, the number of chronic leprosy cases was 189,000, down from some 5.2 million in the 1980s, with India accounting for more than half of all cases (stock photo)
Leprosy is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae.
The disease is known to be extremely slow to develop. The bacteria reproduce slowly and people may not develop symptoms for decades after being exposed.
The average duration is about five years, but some people may not develop signs for more than 20 years after coming into contact with the bacteria.
Symptoms of leprosy include patches of discolored skin, numbness, muscle weakness, eye problems, stuffy nose and nosebleeds, and ulcers on the soles of the feet.
More than 200,000 people are thought to be diagnosed with the disease globally, with 60% of cases in India. Brazil and Indonesia also have relatively large numbers of infections, while the rest are scattered around the world.
Historically thought to be a contagious skin disease that led societies to banish victims to colonies, scientists now believe the disease spreads – slowly – if people inhale bacteria.
The disease can cause progressive nerve damage, weakness and breakdown of limbs, flesh and facial features if left untreated, but antibiotics can now eliminate it.