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On Monday, the CDC announced that leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, has become endemic in the southeastern United States, specifically central Florida. Leprosy is a bacterial infection that affects the skin and nerves, and despite its reputation, it’s not that easily spread. Prolonged close contact with someone with untreated leprosy over many months is needed to catch it, not casual contact. In the past, most non-travel-related leprosy cases were linked to contact with armadillos, but recent cases in GA and central FL didn’t have any animal contact or recent travel outside the country. Scientists suspect that something in the environment is infecting people, but the source is still unknown. If an employee has signs of leprosy, including discolored or numb patches of skin, ulcers on the soles of the feet, enlarged nerves, hand and foot weakness, or other skin or nerve issues, they should seek medical attention immediately and stay home from work until their doctor clears them.
Source: CDC, CBS
Warming temperatures and increased flooding will mean that there are more malaria cases and other mosquito-borne diseases in the US over time. Whether the cases in FL and TX that were locally acquired (not travel-related) are due to warmer temps this year is hard to pin down, and there’s no specific evidence for it. But experts agree that the US getting hotter and wetter means mosquitos and ticks will thrive, and the diseases they spread may, too. Locally acquired dengue, West Nile, and other diseases are already trending up over the past few years, and are likely to continue to rise without strong interventions. To help protect your employees, make sure you clear any standing water, offer insect repellent to outdoor workers, and offer long sleeves and pant options if you have uniform requirements.
Source: WUSF Health
Cases of tick-borne illnesses are on the rise, and a changing climate may be to blame, at least in part. Ticks don’t survive freezing temps, but as winters get warmer, their active seasons are starting earlier. They’re also starting to move north into areas that used to be too cold for them. Where people live plays a role, too, since deer and other animals that ticks feed on are living closer to humans, increasing the chances of contact with an infected tick. Breaking up forests by developing the land around them can mean white-footed mice, which carry ticks, don’t have as many predators, leading to increases in the tick population. Ticks are particularly good at spreading diseases to humans, so scientists have been taking note since there are real risks of new or widespread outbreaks as ticks become a bigger part of our everyday lives.
Source: AP, CNN, PBS
A great read from the Atlantic to help you understand your employees who are struggling with chronic fatigue from long COVID or other disorders: