So this is a real thing in the news this week: Leprosy is on the rise in Florida, and three new cases were diagnosed in Volusia County over the past five months. Officials say it's probably linked to armadillos. These adorable little armored mammals are soooooo kissable (see above), but they also happen to carry the bacteria that can cause a leprosy infection. And here's the really distressing part – you could contract leprosy from one and not know it for years, because symptoms can take up to 10 years to show up after infection. Two of the three infected Volusia County patients said they had "close contact" with armadillos, which people sometimes catch and eat. They're known to some as possum on the half-shell (shudder), poor-man's pig or Hoover hogs, because people started eating them during the Depression when many people couldn't afford to buy traditional meats.
Fortunately, modern medicine can cure leprosy if it's caught early enough. And although it's contagious. officials say that about 95 percent of people are immune to it, so they don't contract if if they're exposed.
Just to be safe, steer clear of the armadillos. Look but don't touch. We prefer to admire our armadillos from a distance. Like this super-cute one playing with a dog toy, below.