Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/817

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
797
BIBLICAL AND MODERN LEPROSY.

BIBLICAL AND MODERN LEPROSY.
By GEORGE HENRY FOX, M. D.,
CLINICAL PROFESSOR OF DISEASES OF THE SKIN, COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS AND SURGEONS, NEW YORK.

THE diseases which prevailed among the children of Israel were doubtless as numerous and as varied as those which now exist, and to a great extent they were probably identical with those affecting humanity at the present time. The most notable one spoken of in the Old Testament is called leprosy. As there exists at the present day a disease called by the same name, a consideration and comparison of the two may prove of interest.

The leprosy of the present day is found not only in distant parts of the world, but also in our own country. In Egypt, where it doubtless originated, and has prevailed for several thousand years, it still occurs. In Syria, India, China, and Japan, it is quite common. In Europe it is endemic chiefly along the shores of the Mediterranean and in Norway, although occasional cases are met with from time to time in many of the larger cities. In the West Indies and portions of South America it is also common, and in the Sandwich Islands it has increased rapidly in recent years, and now afflicts a large proportion of the native population. Coming nearer home, we find the disease existing among the Chinese in California, among the Norwegians in Minnesota, among the French and negroes in Louisiana, and among certain French Canadians in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. During the past ten or fifteen years there have constantly been from one to a half-dozen or more cases in the hospitals of New York city, while other cases have been reported from Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other cities. Most of these cases have occurred among sailors or others, who have spent considerable time in the tropics or in regions where leprosy is common, and there contracted the disease. In New York there has occurred but one case in a person who had not been outside of the State, and in this case the origin of the disease could not be explained. It is an extremely difficult matter to determine beyond all doubt whether leprosy spreads only through hereditary transmission, or only through direct contagion, or in both ways. The disease is considered, by many who have had the best opportunities for studying it, to be hereditary in some cases, and at the same time capable of being propagated through inoculation. When leprosy once becomes prevalent in a community where vice, ignorance, and filth abound, it usually tends to increase, but it is far from being a highly contagious disease, as is commonly imagined. Physicians and hospital nurses have no hesitancy in caring for leprous patients, and the fear of the disease spreading through an intelligent community is