The man, who is in his 20s, suggests that the roots of the man's leprosy may date from his time in Samoa. He moved to Texas in 2019 and likely already had the bacterial infection in his system. (Related: California school invaded by medieval flesh rotting disease.)
When the man decided to seek medical treatment for the several large ring-shaped rashes in his chest and abdomen, he also reported feeling numbness in parts of his body for at least three months before his arrival at the hospital. Furthermore, the man's fingers were permanently bent into claw-like figures.
The first dermatologist to take a look at the Texas man was unsure what his condition was. A skin sample was taken and sent to a specialist laboratory, with the results confirming that the man had leprosy.
Leprosy, commonly referred to today by doctors as Hansen's disease, is caused by a bacteria known as Mycobacterium leprae. In most of the developed world, leprosy is all but unknown.
Experts noted that the bacteria that causes leprosy is usually spread by droplets from the mouth and nose and can also be passed on from prolonged skin-to-skin contact or from contamination with tattooing.
The man from Texas was already heavily tattooed when he moved to the mainland United States from Samoa, where leprosy is still endemic. Experts noted that symptoms can take years to develop. But if left untreated, it can lead to nerve damage, blindness and even death.
Doctors in Texas immediately put the man on a course of antibiotics recommended by international health organizations for treating leprosy, and researchers who discussed his case in the medical journal JAMA Clinical Challenge noted that his symptoms improved after two months.
However, the man did require surgery on his tendons to reverse the claw-like grip on his hands. He is currently undergoing occupational therapy to help return the full range of movement to his hands. A year after his diagnosis, he was still reportedly undergoing antibiotic treatment.
While leprosy is still considered rare in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emerging Infectious Diseases journal warned that cases are on the rise.
The journal noted that in 2020, only 159 leprosy cases were reported. But the bulk of these cases were found in Central Florida, with the region accounting for nearly one-fifth of all reported cases in the United States.
Most of the other cases from 2020 were found in California, Hawaii, Louisiana, New York and Texas.
Barry Inman, an epidemiologist from the Brevard County Department of Health in Florida, warned that many of the infections can come from people interacting with armadillos, a known carrier of the disease.
Nine-banded armadillos, which are commonly found throughout much of the Southern U.S., are the most well-known carriers. As much as 20 percent of all nine-banded armadillos can be carrying Hansen's disease.
Dr. Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, warned that other parts of the U.S. could also turn into breeding grounds for leprosy, including the massive homeless encampments sprouting up in major cities like Los Angeles.
Learn more about disease outbreaks in the United States at Outbreak.news.
Watch the following video about how diseases like leprosy ravaged the medieval world.
This video is from the Daily Videos channel on Brighteon.com.