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Red squirrels carrying medieval strain of human leprosy as p

Red squirrels carrying medieval strain of human leprosy as people warned to stay away

Although the risk to humans is small, scientists at the University of Edinburgh say people should avoid physical contact and wash hands thoroughly to minimise the risk.

“Taking sensible precautions such as avoiding physical contact with wild animals and washing your hands before eating will further minimise any risk,” said Professor Anna Meredith, of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

“The discovery of leprosy in red squirrels is worrying from a conservation perspective but shouldn’t raise concerns for people in the UK.

“The bacteria that cause leprosy cannot survive outside the body and evidence shows that 95 per cent of all people are naturally unable to get leprosy, even if they are exposed to the bacteria that causes it.

“We need to understand how and why the disease is acquired and transmitted among red squirrels so that we can better manage the disease in this iconic species.”

One of the papers lead authors Dr Andrej Benjak said it was important to monitor the disease in Britain, as part of the WHO's global Leprosy Surveillance Programme.

"Leprosy has not been detected in the UK in decades, though we cannot exclude the possibility of rare, unreported or misdiagnosed cases that originated within the UK," he said.

The red squirrel is already endangered because of spread of grey squirrels and conservationists are concerned that the disease spread could cause further population decline. Forum Index -> HEALTH and Medical NEWS
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