Health officials in Florida are warning people to avoid contact with armadillos after a recent rise in leprosy cases linked to the armoured creatures.
Florida officials have reported nine cases of leprosy already this year – double the normal rate.
Armadillos are the only animal to carry leprosy, a bacterial disease that affects the skin and nerves.
The disease can be spread through saliva. The animals sometimes spit when cornered or caged.
While the risk of contracting leprosy from an armadillo is low, health officials advise against touching the animals.
Most of the population is immune to leprosy – also known as Hansen’s disease – and the disease is treatable. However, leprosy can be life threatening if left untreated.
Originally from South America, armadillos are found in many areas in the southeast of America, mostly notably in Texas.