Experts Warn of Leprosy Spreading in Southern States

Experts Warn of Leprosy Spreading in Southern States

( – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning of the spread of leprosy in the southern United States. In a recent report, the CDC says there is a worrying growth in leprosy infections in Florida – where 81% of American cases are found. The number of people suffering from the highly infectious disease has doubled in the Southeastern United States over the past decade, much of it believed to have resulted from immigration.

According to the report, leprosy cases in Florida have increased despite “lacking traditional risk factors.” Decreased diagnoses among foreign-born immigrants also contribute to now endemic levels of leprosy in the southeastern United States.

Leprosy is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and M lepromatosis, leading to painful skin lesions. It also attacks nerves and can lead to a loss of sensation in the skin as well as muscle weakness. Diagnoses depend on the patient’s self-referral, and treatment involves several interacting drugs.

The disease often recalls biblical stories and historical accounts of colonies and isolation. For centuries, sufferers were removed from their families and communities and spent their time alone in life-long quarantine. Leper colonies developed across the United States – these were isolated areas where only people with leprosy could enter. One such settlement was based in Hawaii and remained functioning until the mid-2010s.

Kalaupapa, established in 1866 on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, was home to thousands of leprosy patients during the 19th and 20th centuries. In 2015, six remained on the island despite having long been cured of the disease. Dr. Sylvia Haven, who worked on the island in the 1970s, told the New York Times, “When they came here, the law guaranteed them a home for life.”

The Hawaiian colony was one of several in the US, and also the largest. Other leper colonies included Penikese Island and Carville National Leprosarium.

Copyright 2023,