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Identifier 000414886
Title Απομόνωση και λέπρα στην Ελλάδα του 20ου αιώνα
Alternative Title Isolation and leprosy in Greece in 20th century
Author Δεμίρης, Νικόλαος
Thesis advisor Γαλανάκης, Εμμανουήλ
Σαμώνης, Γεώργιος
Ζέη, Ελευθερία
Abstract Introduction Hansen’s disease most commonly known as Leprosy is a slowly progressive, chronic granulomatous disease, which predominantly affects the skin, peripheral nerves and the mucous membrane of the upper respiratory tract and oral cavity, caused by Mycobacterium leprae. In order to be transmitted, it is necessary a prolonged, close contact with someone with untreated disease over many months or even years. The first 2 clusters of leprosy were found in India and China in 1600 B.C – 400 B.C. century, but it was not until the end of the 19th century A.D. that physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen discovered Mycobacterium leprae as the cause of the disease. It is believed to have been introduced into Europe by Greek soldiers returning from the Indian campaign of Alexander the Great. From Greece, the disease is thought to have spread around the Mediterranean basin. At that time the disease was known with the Greek term “elephantiasis”. Since the ancient times, due to the unknown origin of the disease and the physical deformities caused by it, leprosy was synonymous to “madness” and “sin”. Leprosy ravaged across Europe for centuries, and from 10th to 14th century, there was leprosy pandemic in West Europe. In the medieval times, people with leprosy were to be found around towns where they would beggar. Church gave them shelter, but they were held in and had to live by the rules of the monastic order. During that period the conception of Leprosy was a combination of medical knowledge, unbalanced dietary conditions and the cultural practices of the lower classes. Gradually and especially after the discovery of Mycobacterium Leprae as the cause of the disease in 1873 Hansen’s disease considered as a medical problem that had to be solved. During the period 1850-1900 AC, a Norwegian city named Bergen, was known as the “capital of leprae”. Considering the nature of the disease and its infectiousness, the First Leprosy Conference was held in Berlin in 1897 and the international guideline of mandatory isolation of the diseased was determined as a prevention measure throughout Europe. Methods The present thesis is classified mainly in the field of the History of Medicine. Methodologically, it has the character of a review study on Hansen's disease and isolation, as a prevention measure, as it was implemented in Greece during the 20th century. In order to seek the necessary bibliography, search was made both on medical websites and in archives of different libraries. Also, a great amount of this study is based on archival material of the under study period. Results In Greece the regional unit of Crete suffered the most from Leprosy. Until the end of the 19th century Crete was under the Ottoman’s Occupation and the disease believed that it was due to hereditary predisposition. Thus, the diseased people were ostracized to live with their families outside of the cities’ walls. Those geographical areas are known as “Meskinohoria”. In Greece at the beginning of the 20th century the scientific world was divided in two categories: those who believed that the disease was hereditary and those who believed that the diseased was transmitted via infection. However, the measure of mandatory isolation applied in order to confront leprosy. In Greece, at the early years of the 20th century, 3 leprosaria were established in the island of Samos, Chios and the famous island of Spinalonga in Crete. Until the late years of 1960s, people with leprosy suffered isolation, social ostracism and stigma. At first there was no medical treatment for those who were isolated in leprosaria. It was forbidden to keep contact or get married to healthy population. By the 1920s chaulmoogra oil and the derivatives of the oil were the principal medication available. However, the drug was not effective when applied locally to affected areas. It was abandoned when Dr Faget introduced sulfones, the first truly effective leprosy drug, in the 1940s. Despite the effectiveness against leprosy, 20 years passed since the fully acceptance of sulfones as the effective treatment of Hansen’s disease and the release of isolation burden Discussion The measures of isolation and quarantine as manners of protection against infectious diseases have been applied in the past by the medical community. Disagreements between scientists about the degree of contagion and heredity of the disease, the lack of effective treatment against the disease, the biases about the disease that have been deeply engraved in the social unconscious, and the international guidelines on mandatory patient isolation have favored the application of the isolation measure in leprosy in a stricter form than had been applied in the past. Multidrug therapies for Mycobacterial resistant strains, the urbanization of the country and the model of the nuclear family have led to the gradual eradication of the disease from the Greek area. Conclusions In conclusion, the measure of isolation as applied in Greece could be considered by some as a successful attempt to treat the disease, as it led to a gradual reduction in the number of patients and by others as a failure. Undoubtedly, the isolation of people carrying the Hansen’s disease by being completely excluded from society led them to social stigma that lasted for years after their "liberation" from the leprosaria. At the same time, however, the significance of the measure of quarantine to diseases in which there are scientific gaps cannot be disputed. Nowadays, Greece is not considered to be a leprosy endemic country and it is known that 95% of people worldwide carry natural immunity against the disease.
Language Greek
Subject Crete
Hansen's disease
Νόσος του Hansen
Issue date 2018-03-28
Collection   Faculty/Department--School of Medicine--Department of Medicine--Post-graduate theses
  Type of Work--Post-graduate theses
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