Yes, you read that correctly. You can get leprosy from an armadillo.
Leprosy is often thought of as an ancient plague that made patients into social outcasts that had to wear bells so people knew they were infected.
And armadillos? They’re those weird-cute creatures we see on the side of the highway that inexplicably jump in the air despite the appearance of miniature legs and bulky bodies. I bet most people have never used the words “leprosy” and “armadillo” in the same sentence. I know I haven’t.
There are typically fewer than 100 cases of leprosy each year in the U.S., but Florida has seen quite an escalation in leprosy cases in 2015, all of which involve contact with armadillos.
The CDC has said that some armadillos can be naturally infected with the disease (the only known animal to do so), and contact with those animals has resulted in humans contracting the disease.
Although unlikely, it is still wise to take precaution when interacting with them. If they spit or scratch, it might be wise to seek medical attention as quickly as possible.
Now that we know armadillos can give you leprosy, and have seen evidence of it spreading through Florida, we might want to think twice about how “cute” and laughable they are.
Leprosy can lay dormant for extended periods of time before showing its symptoms, so it’s definitely something you want to be aware of.