Armadillosuchus arrudai
Nine new cases of leprosy caused by armadillos have been reported so far in 2015 in Florida, according to U.S. health experts. Reuters

Noting the increasing number of leprosy cases recorded in 2015, U.S. health experts have warned people residing in or visiting Florida to stay away from armadillos.

The health experts claim that each year, from 10 to 12 cases of leprosy are reported due to human contact with an armadillo. However, this year, nine cases have already been reported halfway through the year. The rise in the number of cases has led health officials to warn people to stay away from the animal with the leather-like shell.

Dr Sunil Joshi of Florida's Duval County Medical Society believes that the destruction of the armadillo's home is the main reason behind the spike in leprosy cases.

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

The health officials have further warned the parents in the state to ask their children to stay away from armadillos and to avoid touching them.

Once an individual is infected by an armadillo, leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, can be transmitted to a healthy individual through respiratory droplets.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that even though the risk of contracting Hansen's disease from an armadillo is low, people should still try avoiding contact with these creatures. According to the CDC website, some armadillos in the southern United States are natural carriers of Hansen's disease.