Leprosy cases surging in Central Florida: CDC

“There definitely is leprosy in the United States.” – Dr. Nicole Iovine, chief hospital epidemiologist, University of Florida

WESH, ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida is one of the top states with the most new leprosy cases in the country, according to a new research letter from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In fact, the CDC letter said leprosy could now be endemic in Central Florida.

“Endemic means something that is circulating and is present at all times. And it can be at a low level,” said Iovine.

The CDC letter cites research from the National Hansen’s Disease Program that lists these as the states that had the most new leprosy cases in 2020:

  • Florida
  • California
  • Louisiana
  • Hawaii
  • New York
  • Texas

The list of states was based on data from 2020 which is the most recent year for which data is available.

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“For many, leprosy may seem like a problem from biblical times.”

Brevard County has seen the most new leprosy cases in the state since 2011.

What happens if someone contracts leprosy?

Iovine said there are two main presentations of leprosy.

“One of them is where a person develops these pigmented lesions on the skin. They can be scaly. They could happen anywhere on the body. Sometimes they’ll be like bumps, like nodules as well,” she said.

The other presentation is more dramatic.

“Somebody has many, many of these nodular lesions on their face, the bridge of their nose to collapse. It can be very disfiguring on the hands, the ears,” she said …

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