‘It’s not that contagious:’ Doctor says not to worry about leprosy in Florida

CDC reported 159 new cases of leprosy in the US in 2020, with Florida among the top reporting states

In June, the Florida Department of Health issued a statewide mosquito-borne illness advisory after four confirmed cases of malaria in Sarasota County.

They were the first cases in the state in 20 years.

Then, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 159 new cases of leprosy in the U.S. in 2020, with Florida among the top reporting states.

“Some Biblical diseases started making a comeback in the state of Florida,” Florida’s Fourth Estate host Matt Austin said. “Leprosy and malaria, these are two things I never thought we would be talking about again on the news.”

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Austin and his co-host Ginger Gadsden invited Dr. Elizabeth Borrero with Health First to discuss the diseases that still have a lot of people talking.

When it comes to leprosy, Borrero said it is an old disease that has never been able to be eradicated and that most of the new cases are likely spread by people who are traveling out of the country to areas where leprosy is endemic.

Borrero said that list includes Nepal, India, Brazil and Malaysia.

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The disease can be contracted via the nine-banded armadillo or through soil.

Borrero said you likely won’t catch it from someone else.

“As long as the person doesn’t have prolonged contact with another individual, you’re OK. You’re not going to acquire it immediately from somebody who has leprosy,” she said. “It’s not that contagious really.”

More is known about Malaria.

Borrero said it is spread via infected mosquitoes and symptoms include night sweats, nausea, vomiting and headaches.

“The majority of patients that come into the hospital system have a high fever — fevers of over 103 lead them to seek medical attention, which is a good thing.”

Borrero also suggested travel as a way that malaria is spread. She said if you are traveling to a country where it is endemic to see a travel medicine specialist.

She said the World Health Organization has done a lot to help stop the disease from spreading including a vaccine, though it is not available in the U.S. yet.

To learn more about leprosy and malaria and their impact on Florida check out Florida’s Fourth Estate. You can watch it on News 6 or anytime on News 6+.

You can also download it from wherever you listen to podcasts.

You can listen to every episode of Florida’s Fourth Estate in the media player below:

About the Authors:

Tiffany produces the News 6+ Takeover at 5:30 p.m., Florida's Fourth Estate and Talk to Tom.

Emmy Award-winning anchor Matt Austin joined the News 6 team in June 2011 and has been the evening news co-anchor since December 2013.