Do Armadillos Carry Leprosy?

In addition to digging in lawns, uprooting plants, and damaging pavement, armadillos are known for carrying several dangerous diseases. While they can host parasitic worms and even rabies on rare occasions, most of the conversation surrounding armadillo diseases is about leprosy. Besides humans, nine-banded armadillos are the only animals that can carry M. leprae, the bacteria that causes leprosy. Several human cases of the disease linked with the pests have been reported in Texas, though these animals have also tested positive for M. leprae in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

Symptoms of Armadillo Diseases

Although leprosy is rare and does not pass easily between hosts, its name alone often causes panic due to its debilitating side effects. Leprosy typically begins with discolored patches of skin and lesions. As the illness progresses, symptoms include growths on the skin, paralysis or disfigurement of the hands and feet, and blindness. Rabies is another slow-acting but potentially fatal armadillo disease. The virus often takes a long time to display symptoms, such as fever and agitation, but survival is rare once they have emerged. Both leprosy and rabies are curable when caught and treated early.

Prevention & Control

Most cases of rabies and leprosy linked to armadillos are not caused by aggression on the pests’ part, but by things humans do. Armadillos carry diseases that are generally difficult to catch without close contact. Transmission typically occurs when people handle or eat these animals. Keep in mind that improperly cooked meat, as well as dead armadillos, often still harbor bacteria and viruses, so avoid trapping or removal that requires direct contact. Since no effective repellants, toxicants, or fumigants exist for armadillos, the safest bet is to rely on Critter Control’s expert wildlife removal and exclusion services.

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