Cases of leprosy are surging in Central Florida and doctors are looking into why.
Drs. Rajiv Nathoo and Charles Dunn started looking into the cases. The Central Florida researchers found the Orlando area was abundant with this skin disease.
“Of the 159 new cases that were diagnosed in 2020, about 27 of those, about 17%, were from Florida, and of those 27, 22 of them came from Central Florida, so about 81% of the ones that are in Florida, were in the Central Florida region,” said Nathoo, dermatologist and author of the study.
Leprosy is a slow-growing, infectious disease caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium Leprae. It can be as subtle as skin lesions or develop into pronounced symptoms and nerve damage if left untreated.
Nathoo diagnosed leprosy in a patient who had it for five years without knowing it. According to Nathoo, the patient hadn’t traveled out of the country and was not close to anyone who had.
“According to the Florida Department of Health, 75% of new cases detected annually in the U.S. have no known close contact,” Nathoo said.
No matter how it spreads, 95% of people aren’t susceptible to harboring leprosy. Their bodies are programmed to fight it.
Leprosy is hard to get but treatable. As for the cases in Central Florida, Dunn said,
“I think it’s an educated or an important question to ask is if Central Florida is better at reporting this disease than other counties.”
Cases may be going undetected because many think leprosy is a thing of the past. Doctors said that the earliest symptoms include discolored skin and patches that have a lack of sensation due to the connection of the nerves.