A horrific disease … those affected have been subjected to a lifetime quarantine

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Source: Arabic.Net – Taha Abdel Nasser Ramadan

During the medieval period, leprosy caused terror in everyone because of the legacies and deformities it left on its victims. Also, everyone quickly believed that this disease was spreading and spread from person to person, so they deliberately isolated all those affected and sent them to remote areas to live alone for the rest of their lives.

A picture of people affected by leprosy in one of the places designated for them in India
A picture of people affected by leprosy in one of the places designated for them in India

In Europe, the term “Lazar” houses appeared in the Middle Ages, which were remote areas found in mountains or islands and were designated for leprosy patients to ensure their isolation from the rest of society. Lazarus was named after the figure of the poor and sick man in the story of Lazarus, who is rich in the Gospel of Luke.

In addition, the medieval Catholic authorities supervised what was known as the houses of Lazarus, whose members formed a society of their own, far from the rest of the people, and some of them deliberately minted their own currency after promoting ideas about the possibility of infection through money.

A picture of lepers in front of a church in Kalobaba
A picture of lepers in front of a church in Kalobaba

Isolate the injured

The leprosy isolation policy has been in place for many centuries, and these measures extend to many countries, the most important of which is the United States of America. Just like Europe, leprosy patients in the United States of America were prevented from electing, working and freely moving and visiting their relatives and forced to live in a private society in which they married and the authorities killed their children at birth to avoid the transmission of infection to them.

A picture of a number of people affected by leprosy in Kalubaba, Hawaii during the quarantine period
A picture of a number of people affected by leprosy in Kalubaba, Hawaii during the quarantine period

In addition to Penikese, a small island that Massachusetts authorities bought for $ 25,000 in 1904 and the exile designated for them in Louisiana, the Kalahaba region of Molokai Island in the Hawaiian archipelago represented the most important region that received leprosy patients in the United States of America, where the last shelter for 150 years. About 8 thousand injured.

Portrait of clergy with leprosy at the Kalobaba Church
Portrait of clergy with leprosy at the Kalobaba Church

A fence between patients and their families

In Kalubaba, people with leprosy spent the remainder of their lives, so they later separated and buried them, and allowed their family members to visit them without approaching them or touching them, as the authorities relied on a wire fence to separate the patients and their families.

A portrait of a man with leprosy in the Middle Ages
A portrait of a man with leprosy in the Middle Ages

Leprosy, meanwhile, is also dubbed the Hansen disease by the Norwegian scientist Gerhard Armauer Hansen, the discoverer of leprosy bacteria in 1873.

According to medical reports, the bacterial infection caused severe damage to the skin and nerves, leaving the patient with a semi-anesthetic, loss of sensitivity, and prone to wounds and diseases that could kill him at any time.

An imaginary drawing of Lazarus and the rich story that came with the Gospel of Luke
An imaginary drawing of Lazarus and the rich story that came with the Gospel of Luke

Also, some parts of the bodies of leprosy patients may experience gangrene, which may prompt doctors to amputate it. Leprosy is transmitted according to many studies by nasal spray and sometimes by contact with the armored animal (Armadillos).

Currently, 95 percent of the population has natural immunity to this disease, while those with it can be treated with a mixture of antibiotics.

Leprosy marriage

But before the treatment appeared, the US authorities moved to isolate the bacteria that cause leprosy by imposing quarantine in designated areas. Compared to the rest of the quarantine, residents of the Kalubaba district had many advantages, allowing them to reflect on the scenic landscapes, exercise and orientation of the church.

An illustration that embodies the story of Lazarus and the rich
An illustration that embodies the story of Lazarus and the rich

Between 1900 and 1930 Kalubaba witnessed a thousand marriages among leprosy patients, but the authorities extracted their children and granted them to other families to avoid the transmission of the infection to them.

Map highlighting the island of Molokai, Hawaiian Archipelago
Map highlighting the island of Molokai, Hawaiian Archipelago

Also, many of the injured tried to escape from compulsory isolation centers and faced prison terms in prisons designated for them in the region. The American authorities also asked leprosy patients to change their names if they came to avoid society loathing the rest of their healthy family members.

With the emergence of a treatment for leprosy during the 1940s, the US authorities began easing restrictions on those afflicted with it. They were granted the right to vote again in 1946, and they were allowed to create small projects, print a local magazine, and hold an annual celebration.

Bust of scientist Gerhard Armauer Hansen
Bust of scientist Gerhard Armauer Hansen

While most restrictions imposed on them remained in many countries of the world during the 1940s, people affected by leprosy in the United States remained isolated until the late 1960s, as the authorities later agreed to grant them annual pensions of about $ 46,000 and their choice between moving to the homes of the elderly or staying in these places where they were raised.



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