What diseases do armadillos carry? What are some of the symptoms of a sick armadillo?
Most of the time, people do not associate armadillos with disease. However, armadillos have been linked to certain gruesome age-old illnesses. What this means is that we should exercise caution around armadillos and practice sanitary habits around these unique animals. This should apply for all animals regardless of the circumstance. In 2015, cases of leprosy became more frequent due to the amount of people exposed to armadillos. Nine cases of leprosy were reported in 2015 by Florida’s Department of Health. In previous years, Florida saw fewer cases of leprosy on average. Fortunately, the chance of contracting leprosy from an armadillo is rare.
Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease as it is sometimes called, is an infectious disease that afflicts the nerves and skin among other parts of the body. This disease originates from a bacterium known as Mycobacterium leprae. Armadillos are naturally infected with this disease and are one of the few animals known to carry Hansen’s disease. In the United States, there are anywhere between fifty to one hundred cases of Hansen’s disease every year. Most people in the United States are immune to leprosy, thus making the disease rare. For the unfortunate victims of this terrible illness, the disease may be dormant for a long time before the symptoms make themselves evident.
Medical professionals attributed the increase in the prevalence of the disease to an increase in housing development, forcing the armadillos out into the open and into contact with human beings. The primary victims of this situation are those who work outdoors. If leprosy is treated within a short time, the prospects for the person affected are normally good. On the other side, leprosy can be fatal if not treated in time. Leprosy is a bigger concern in areas such as Africa and Asia where the population is more tightly concentrated and there is an increased amount of contact among humans.
About twenty percent of armadillos carry Hansen’s disease or leprosy. There is not much that will distinguish a sick armadillo from an armadillo that is not infected. One of the great things about nature is that sick armadillos are usually preyed upon before it becomes obvious that they carry leprosy. The normal body temperature of an armadillo presents an ideal environment for the bacterium that leprosy derives from to thrive. The nine-banded armadillo is the only species of armadillo capable of carrying leprosy. Scientific experts are of the opinion that humans actually transmitted the disease to the armadillos centuries ago.
With all this in mind, it is important to be alert and be cautious around armadillos. While the chance of contract leprosy is low, it is best not to roll the dice with your health and safety. This is even more true if you live in the Southern United States since armadillos are more common in that area of the country. Those who work outdoors should be even more careful. If the symptoms of Hansen’s disease begin to spring up or you suspect that you may have contracted it, it is necessary to act fast. Stay safe and stay alert outdoors!
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