Biblical Disease On The Rise in Florida Per CDC

Florida is witnessing a surge in leprosy cases, suggesting that the disease is becoming a regular occurrence within the community. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that Florida is responsible for nearly 20% of the leprosy cases reported in the U.S., with Central Florida accounting for 81% of the state’s cases.

Historically, leprosy, also known as Hansen’s Disease, has been relatively rare in the U.S. Despite a spike in 1983, the number of cases declined from the 1980s to the 2000s, only to rise again. The southeastern states, in particular, have seen a two-fold increase in reported leprosy cases over the past decade.

Leprosy is caused by Mycobacterium leprae, a slow-growing bacteria. Symptoms of the disease include discolored patches of skin, thick or dry skin, ulcers on the soles of feet, swelling or lumps on the face or earlobes, and loss of eyebrows or eyelashes. The disease can also cause nerve damage, resulting in muscle weakness, numbness in the affected areas, enlarged nerves, and eye problems. Nosebleeds and a stuffy nose are also symptoms associated with leprosy.

The disease is curable if detected and treated early with antibiotics. The CDC noted that while leprosy in the U.S. previously affected individuals who had immigrated from leprosy-endemic areas, about 34% of new cases between 2015 and 2020 appear to have been locally acquired. Several cases in central Florida show no clear evidence of exposure to known risk factors.

The CDC suggests that the lack of traditional risk factors in many recent Florida leprosy cases, along with the high proportion of residents who spend a lot of time outdoors, supports the investigation into environmental reservoirs as a potential source of transmission.

The CDC is uncertain about how leprosy is transmitted between people. Still, it is believed to occur when someone with the disease coughs or sneezes and another person breathes in the droplets carrying the bacteria. Prolonged contact with an untreated person over a long period is necessary to contract the disease. Leprosy is not transmitted by shaking hands or sitting next to a person with the disease.

In 2020, 159 new cases of leprosy were reported in the U.S., according to the National Hansen’s Disease Program. About 69 percent of those new cases occurred in Florida, California, Louisiana, Hawaii, New York, and Texas.