Part Two of the Armadillo Conundrum…About That Leprosy/Spitting Thing

| 12/20/2017 8:52:00 AM

Linda and Burt Crume 

Yes, it appears that the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus Novemcinctus) found in North America carries the virus for leprosy, which is also known as Hansen’s disease. According to a March 2015, article in "Smart Talk," which is a Smithsonian publication, armadillos are the only mammals besides humans that can host the leprosy bacillus. The New England Journal of Medicine said the Leprosy/Hansen’s virus in humans and armadillos is identical.

Trailing Armadillo Leprosy Blog

The only way for the disease to be transmitted is by handling an armadillo or ingesting the flesh…well, I don’t anticipate armadillo linguini or burgers on my diet anytime soon. No concern about the disease until I read that armadillos could spit and spread the virus that way? The headline in a Newsweek article from July 2015 screamed, Spitting Armadillos Blamed for Florida’s Emerging Leprosy Problem!  It seems that the normally very placid armadillo loses its cool when confronted by what it considers to be a threat. It rears up on its back legs and hisses…and maybe spits? This can be a problem for many people who trap and relocate armadillos. My live trap is 14-by-14-by-24 inches.  When I approach the trapped armadillo, my trap prevents them from standing on their hind legs, but does not stop them from hissing and possibly spitting at me. A scary scenario considering the disease can lay dormant for 25 years and more, according to the Smithsonian publication.

However, in a National Public radio story from July 2015, Leprosy from an Armadillo? That’s an Unlikely Peccadillo, NPR’s Nancy Shute said she’d contacted Dr. Richard Truman, acting chief of the laboratory research branch of the National Hansen’s Disease Program in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. According to Ms. Shute, he’s authored 31 articles on armadillos and leprosy, and uses armadillos to study the disease. The comforting words from Dr. Truman are that 95 percent of humans are completely immune, because of genetics. He says, “All wild animals can harbor infectious agents that are harmful to people. If we leave animals alone and exercise caution they don’t pose a risk to us.”   Maybe Dr. Truman should chat with the armadillos that tear up my yard and garden like hungry pigs shoving their snouts through buckets of curdled milk and hammered corn.

So, only 5 percent of humans are not immune to leprosy, according to Dr. Truman of Baton Rouge, and not all armadillos carry the Leprosy bacteria, according to Stephanie S. Smith, PhD, and writer for “Information Central Blog.” Dr. Smith says only 15 percent of armadillos carry the disease, making it more unlikely any of us will get the disease…if we stay away from these roly-poly animals.

12/27/2017 7:44:28 AM

Linda and Burt, ha, sounds like my urban vacant lot with all the animals to contend with. My vacant lot garden resides in the inner city. I have three fences to keep the native animals from using the garden as their buffet. The first fence is a six foot wooden fence to keep deer out. Yes, they could just over six foot but the information I found seems to be true. If a deer can't see what it's jumping into, it won't jump. Next I have a five foot steel welded fence inside the wooden fence to slow down the rabbits and raccoons. Of course raccoons can dig and climb. The final fence was a single strand battery powered electric fence about 18 inches up that encompasses the steel welded fence. My goal was to live in harmony with the wild life as I invaded their space. It took five years to build the protected garden. I not a heartless gardener so I do give up some of the harvest to the surrounding wildlife. So yes, I feel your frustration with wild animals. I did not know about the leprosy and armadillo connection. We don't have them in Nebraska. The biggest wildlife disease we contend with here in wildlife is rabies. Raccoons and skunks are the most common carriers. Have the best armadillo conundrum day that you can. Nebraska Dave

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