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Havens of Refuge: A History of Leprosy in Western Australia

Robert C. Hastings, MD, PhD
JAMA. 1980;243(6):569. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03300320055029.
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Dr Davidson, a former commissioner of public health for western Australia, provides an exhaustively detailed account of the history of leprosy in the region compiled from the files of the Public Health Department of Western Australia. He traces the probable introduction of the disease into this area by pearling boat crews from Southeast Asia or by Chinese. After initial cases among Chinese in the 1890s, the disease appeared in aborigines, a susceptible population, among whom the current prevalence of the disease in western Australia varies from 9.5 to 62.5 per thousand.

A sympathetic account of the social impact of the disease and the considerable favorable impact of the opening of the leprosarium at Derby is provided. Profiles of the principal medical workers of the area are given as well as a wealth of amusing bureaucratic entanglements concerning such things as fees and contracts for transportation of patients, mandatory submerging of


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