A few weeks back, media coverage around a leprosy case in the US overshadowed pressing issues like extreme weather conditions, which are of greater concern to many. So, should a single leprosy diagnosis in central Florida make us think the whole country is at risk? Could this be the prelude to a new pandemic? How concerned should we truly be?
Keep reading to get clarity on leprosy. (Hint: armadillos get a mention.)
Why Leprosy Grabbed Headlines In August, a leprosy case from central Florida was highlighted in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal. This story was amplified with headlines such as “CDC confirms leprosy outbreak in Florida: Travel precautions” (WKYC) and “Central Florida identified as leprosy hot spot” (CNN).
Alarmingly, the diagnosed man didn’t display the usual risk factors. He hadn’t visited leprosy-prone regions or mingled with infected individuals. Earlier research indicates that the leprosy-causing organism might persist in soil, which suggests his landscaping job might have exposed him.
Leprosy, also termed Hansen’s disease, is instigated by the Mycobacterium leprae bacteria, a kin to the tuberculosis-causing agent. Originating from ancient times, this disease, impacting the skin, nerves, eyes, and respiratory tract, has mentions in ancient texts and has been genetically traced back to 2000 BC.
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