The Lepers.—The active measures of the Board of Health to make another thorough examination of the Islands, for the purpose of staying the spread of leprosy, has attracted public attention to what is being done, in this matter of the public health. As the settlement at Molokai becomes thoroughly organized, and its comfortable provision for the lepers becomes better known, there is less dread and less unwillingness on the part of the suspected, to report themselves for examination. With a perseverance in the course adopted, the lepers throughout the Islands will soon be all gathered in and disposed of in the quarters assigned for their future residence.
It was believed, some three years ago, when the first active measures were adopted by the Government, that there were about 300 lepers scattered through the population, who ought to be segregated. Up to the opening of the Assembly, the report of the Board of Health shows that 711 persons were examined,of whom 174 proved to be lepers, and were sent to Molokai. To the 43 in the Kalihi hospital, at that time, 58 more have been added, and of this total 64 have been sent to Molokai, making a total of confirmed cases of 238.
The Hospital at Kalihi, organized to place suspected cases for treatment, contains at present 35 patients, while there are 36 cases on the books, not yet restrained of liberty, who are obliged to report themselves every month, until the nature of their malady developes itself beyond doubt.
The percentage of the cases presented for the examination, and popularly supposed to be leprous, but who really prove so, is very small; and although the evil is serious enough, we decidedly disapprove of alarmists magnifying it so much beyond its real extent.
Of the 64 cases lately sent to Molokai, 35 were from the other Islands, and 29 from Oahu. The examination of this Island has not, until now, been so thorough as the others, and hence the present cases can not be taken as a basis of calculation, to reach a general result.
It is difficult to detect this insidious disease in its early stages, so that even medical men, unaccustomed to note its obscure symptoms, may not reach the truth at once in determining what the disease of the patient examined may be. Hence the wholesale deprivation of liberty, in cases where doubt exists, would be unjust and unreasonable. Concealment has been a great obstacle in the way of the Board’s operation, and when one leper has been detained he has informed on the others. The operation of this natural instinct to have all served alike will, in the end, place all leprous persons under the cognizance of our authorities. So far as reasonable industry, and a persevering intention to combat and exterminate the leprosy, and the employment of wise means and agencies for this purpose are concerned, we think the Board may challenge the strictures of all the carping writers in our community.
(Hawaiian Gazette, 9/23/1868, p. 2)