Zoonoses are diseases in animals transmissible to humans directly or indirectly, perhaps by infected ticks.. I have, in recent columns, mentioned quite a few, including Toxoplama gondii, the disease carried by house cats and contracted by humans who come into contact with the infected cat’s feces.
I briefly mentioned that contact with armadillos could cause leprosy. It can also be caused by contact with infected people. Leprosy, or some closely related disorder, has been around since Biblical times. During Middle Ages, persons with leprosy were confined to “leper colonies.”Leper colonies were common in Europe. A notorious leper colony on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai existed from 1866 to 1969, housing hundreds of lepers from all over the world. A leper colony continues to exist in the United States. It is located a short distance from Baton Rouge in Carville, LA, and once housed up to 500 inmates. It was closed in 1959, but 10 elderly people still lived there because it’s the only place they have ever lived. Leprosy sometimes takes several years for the symptoms to appear, in the form of skin lesions, following which more serious, sensory symptoms begin to occur.
An estimate two to three million people in the world are estimated to be disabled with leprosy, most of which live in India. In the United States between 1994 and 2011 there were an estimated 2,300 cases. California ranks first in the number of cases reported, Texas ranks second, and Louisiana is third.
An interesting report of 11 cases in southern Florida recently raised some eyebrows. Although armadillos are common in Florida, there are no reports of people eating them or keeping them as pets. One authority speculates that some may have trapped the critters and were spit on by the trapped animals.That’s the first report I have read about spitting armadillos. Oh well, you learn something new every day, or at least you should.
Zika continues to make the newspapers and TV outlets. That’s the zoonotic disease spread by the mosquitoes, the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, and its relative, the Asian tiger mosquito. Pregnant women infected with The Zika virus are likely to give birth to babies with abnormally small heads and brains. Both these mosquitoes occur in Alabama. They breed in water-filled receptacles and standing pools and puddles. “Mosquito dunks,” are pellets containing the larvicide, Bacillus thuringensis israelensis, which when placed in pools of stagnant water, the preparation is toxic to mosquito and those of a few other obnoxious insects, but are harmless to other critters.
Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Department of Zoology and Entomology at Auburn University. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.