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Updated: July 22, 2015 2:55 PM ET | Originally published: July 22, 2015 10:59 AM EDT

Heath officials in Florida warned people to avoid armadillos because they can pass leprosy to humans. Nine cases of leprosy in humans have already been reported so far this year in the state—close to the annual average of 10 cases, officials said.

“It is still very, very unlikely to cause problems but be aware of armadillos and stay away from them,” Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval County Medical Society, told WJAX-TV. He told USA Today that all nine of the Florida cases involved people who had come into close contact with armadillos.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns on its website that humans can contract the disease from armadillos but says “the risk is low.”

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a bacterial disease that harms human skin, making it dryer and thicker and causing lesions and growths. It remains rare in the U.S. and can be cured with antibiotics.

Write to Justin Worland at

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