A new report published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases has found that Central Florida is a hotspot for leprosy, with the region accounting for nearly 20% of all new cases in the United States in 2020.
The report, authored by researchers from the University of Florida, found that there were 159 cases of leprosy reported in Florida in 2020, and of those, 128 occurred in Central Florida. This is a significant increase from previous years, as the number of leprosy cases in Florida has been steadily declining since the 1980s.
The researchers believe that there are a number of factors that may be contributing to the increase in leprosy cases in Central Florida. One possibility is that the region’s warm, humid climate is more favorable to the transmission of the bacteria that causes leprosy. Additionally, the region has a large population of immigrants from countries where leprosy is more common, such as Brazil and India.
The report also found that a significant number of the leprosy cases in Central Florida were in people who had no known risk factors for the disease, such as travel to a leprosy-endemic country or contact with an infected person. This suggests that leprosy may be becoming endemic in the region, meaning that it is being transmitted locally.
Leprosy is a chronic bacterial infection that can cause a variety of symptoms, including skin lesions, nerve damage, and muscle weakness. It is curable with early treatment, but if left untreated, it can lead to serious complications.
The researchers who conducted the study are urging health care providers in Central Florida to be on the lookout for leprosy, especially in people who have no known risk factors for the disease. They also recommend that people who live in the region be aware of the symptoms of leprosy and seek medical attention if they develop any concerns.