Once again, Florida is leading the nation: The same state that brought you Disney World and the world’s first and only mollusk museum is now leading the country in new cases of leprosy. 9 new cases of the disease have been diagnosed in Florida since the beginning of 2015, and experts suggest that “fuckin’ with armadillos” (our paraphrase) has something to do with it.

The New York Daily News reports that every one of the cases diagnosed this year (and Florida usually has about two to 12 per) has been related to the patient’s contact with armadillos. The phrase “direct contact” is beautifully suggestive: are Floridians taking the world’s fifth-most frightening animals home as pets? Posing for selfies with them after running them over? Becoming involved in deep and invested romantic relationships with them that are mutually satisfying for both partners? But the reality’s a little less “fun” and a little more bleak.

From CNN:

“There is a clear reason why this is happening in Florida,” [Dr. Sunil] Joshi said. “New homes are being developed, and we are tearing down armadillos’ homes in the process. Now these creatures are coming out in the daytime, and the people who are getting exposed are those working outside.”

Fortunately, most people are immune to the bacteria that causes leprosy, making it a rare disease. And, according to the CDC, contracting leprosy from being in contact with an armadillo is fairly rare. Still, if you’re in Florida—or, you know, anywhere armadillos live in general—you might want to avoid the nine-banded armadillo, no matter how inviting its shell looks.

And, if you haven’t avoided the dreaded ‘dillo, and you’re concerned you might have contracted leprosy due to direct contact, a helpful symptom and treatment guide can be found here.


Contact the author at mark.shrayber@jezebel.com.

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