According to recent study, leprosy, a disease commonly associated with biblical references, has been on the rise in Florida, and experts are warning that it is becoming endemic in the southeastern region of the United States. In 2020, Florida was among the states with the highest number of leprosy cases, and the infection seems to be particularly concentrated in Central Florida.
Over the past decade, the number of leprosy cases in the region has more than doubled, despite historically low occurrences of the disease in the U.S. since the 1980s. Central Florida, in particular, has seen a significant increase in cases, accounting for 81% of leprosy cases in Florida between 2002 and 2021.
The Florida Department of Health has reported a total of 263 cases over the past 20 years, with 70 of them originating within the state. This year alone, there have been 15 cases of leprosy, with eight individuals acquiring the infection in Florida.
The report emphasizes that health officials in other states should consider whether a person has traveled to Florida when examining potential leprosy cases due to the increasing prevalence in the region.
One notable case mentioned in the report involved a 54-year-old man who was diagnosed with leprosy but did not have the typical risk factors associated with the disease. This highlights the complexity of identifying the source of infection, as leprosy develops slowly and symptoms take time to manifest.
Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, affects the skin and peripheral nervous system, causing discolored patches, growths, thick and dry skin, painless ulcers on the feet, and other symptoms. Nerve damage is also common, leading to numbness, weakness, and eye problems that may result in blindness.
While leprosy is treatable with a combination of antibiotics over one to two years, its increasing prevalence in Florida warrants attention and monitoring by health authorities.