This article about leprosy in the New York Times earlier this month did a good job summing up the basic conundrums about the disease that have confounded researchers. But the writer got carried away in stating that most of the 200 cases of leprosy diagnosed annually in the US are thought to stem from contact with armadillos. Although wild nine-banded armadillos are the only other mammal, besides humans, known to harbor the disease, researchers suspect that the animals originally caught it from European colonizers a few hundred years ago. As Dr. William Levis wrote in a letter to The Grey Lady:
The medical world still does not know exactly how leprosy is transmitted. There have been a few case reports of armadillo handlers in the Southwest contracting leprosy. But the New York Hansen’s Disease Clinic at Bellevue Hospital Center, where I am an attending physician, is treating more than 200 people for leprosy, and from what we know, none of them have had contact with armadillos.
What’s more, these Texas speed bumps do not exist in India, where leprosy is rampant, so go figure.