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HLTA01 - Chapter 14

Health Studies
Course Code
Caroline Barakat

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Plagues and People
Chapter 14: Leprosy
Leprosy, the Striking Hand of God
- Had many references from the Bible
- Mentioned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament
o Seen as unclean and displeasing to God
- “Disease of the Soul” and was very highly contagious
A Look Back
- Most likely began in the Far East around 1400 BC
o Accurate descriptions of the disease in the sacred Hindu writings of the Veda as
well as accurate descriptions in Chinese literature
- Earliest account was in an Indian text between 600 and 400 BC
- Nei Chang ( a book of medicine)
o Described the disease with symptoms of stiff joints, hair loss (eyebrows and
beard), flesh becomes nodular and ulcerates, numbness results, and the bridge
of the nose begins to change color and rot
- May have either been brought from India to Greece in the 4th Century BC or spread from
the Far East to the West along trade routes arriving in the Mediterranean
- Evidence of the disease from bones dating from AD 500 to 700
- Emperor Constantine suffered from leprosy
- Pagan priests believed that bathing in the blood of sacrificed children would cure him
- Saraath used mainly to describe many skin conditions
o Became lepros
- The sinfulness of the disease stigmatized the lepers
- Lepers crafty, irascible, suspicious, and had a desire for lustful sex
- The disease was also sometimes known as an insatiable sexual appetite (satyriasis)
- Leprosy became accepted as the divine punishment for the sins of the flesh
- There was confusion between syphilis and leprosy in the 16th century
- Alienation and stigmatism of the lepers was worsened by the disfiguration of the hands
and face
o Their sore bodies lead to the belief that they were contagious
o They were not considered nice people and were out-casted from society
- 1179 segregation of lepers from society not allowed to mix with the crowds
o Couldn’t touch anything unless they bought it

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o Wore a distinctive garment and had to announce their presence with a
- Often strapped to a pole and burned alive
- Lazar houses/ lazarets refuges for the lepers
- Went from pandemic to epidemic in 12th Century
o 19, 000 lazarets in 13th and 14th century England
o Between the 16th and 18th century however, the lazarets slowly closed down and
then altogether disappeared
Leprosy decreased
- Knights that participated in the Crusades had contracted leprosy and created their own
spiritual order
o Order of Lazarus
o Contributing factor to spread of leprosy
- Spread from Spain and Africa to America in 16th and 17th centuries
- Rediscovery of leprosy in 1860’s of those of foreign births
o Hawaii tried quarantine and segregation
o Lepers were loaded onto a ship and sent to Kalawao
o Leper colony was formerly made in 1865
o Chinese were singled out as the source of leprosy, however 97% of the lepers
were Hawaiian
o Father Damien
Resident priest for 3 months yes but stayed for 16 years
Cleaned and bandaged sores, built homes and hospitals, reservoirs and a
plumbing system
Buried many leprosy victims
- Considered a disease especially associated with the Chinese
- Louisiana Home for Lepers became the American National Leprosarium at Carville in
- Males and females were separated to avoid contact
- Remaining leprosy patients in Carville were set free by Bill Clinton and receive $33,000
annually, as well as having lifelong medical care for their disease and be able to reside
anywhere they wanted
The Disease of Leprosy
- Mycobacterium leprae found by Gerhard Armauer Hansen
- Leprosy disease is more modernly called Hansen’s disease
- Acid-fast bacillus
- Cannot be grown into tissue culture
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