Media reports that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel advisory for Florida are untrue, the CDC has confirmed.
A Daily Mail headline claimed that the CDC issued an advisory warning against travel to Florida due to an increase in leprosy cases. However, this and other reports circulating the internet are misinterpretations of a recent research letter published in the CDC’s August issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
“CDC has not issued a travel advisory or warning for Florida because of Hansen’s disease (leprosy),” a CDC spokesperson told TMR.
The misinterpreted research letter, titled “Case Report of Leprosy in Central Florida, USA, 2022,” states the following:
“Florida, USA, has witnessed an increased incidence of leprosy cases lacking traditional risk factors. Those trends, in addition to decreasing diagnoses in foreign-born persons, contribute to rising evidence that leprosy has become endemic in the southeastern United States. Travel to Florida should be considered when conducting leprosy contact tracing in any state.”
This excerpt, written by researchers who are not affiliated with the CDC, was not meant to advise against travel to Florida. It is intended to encourage doctors to ask if a patient has traveled to or recently lived in Florida when considering a leprosy diagnosis.
Another part of the research letter states, “Travel to this area, even in the absence of other risk factors, should prompt consideration of leprosy in the appropriate clinical context.” This was again meant as a note to health care professionals screening patients for leprosy, not as a warning to the general public.
Though cases of leprosy are on the rise, they are still rare in the United States, which reported 159 new cases in 2020, with Central Florida representing nearly one-fifth of cases, according to the letter.