If you’re a nerd like me, you’re fully aware that only two animals can contract leprosy: Armadillos and humans. This is an excellent reason to stay away from armadillos, but Floridians apparently never got that memo.
Why, you might ask, are Floridians handling armadillos? Well, you know the old joke about how armadillos exist to give Texans something to eat on the half-shell? Nobody explained that was a joke to Florida’s population. We’re not kidding: Shooting and eating armadillos is, for some reason, common enough in Florida to become a public health problem.
Just to underline how bizarre and dumb this is, leprosy is incredibly hard to get. Ninety-five percent of humanity is naturally immune to it, thanks to dormant versions of the virus being effectively everywhere, and you can only get it through prolonged contact with somebody who has it. Even then, it’s an exceptionally slow virus; you can have it for decades before you show any symptoms. Similarly, armadillos are very shy and hard to trap, so it’s not like they’re up in our business.
The good news is that leprosy is currently very treatable with multi-drug therapy techniques. Now, the shame of gunning down an ugly-cute animal and eating it, there’s no treatment for that except shame. Work on exporting shame to Florida is ongoing, and we hope to have the first treatments soon.