JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.
It would be well indeed if some discriminative knowledge of infections could be impressed on the laity. A great deal has been done in this regard both by articles written for the public and by popular lectures; but the general consciousness has obviously not yet been adequately permeated with the subject. There is here, as elsewhere, “a long interval between the purely intellectual acceptance of a truth and its practical application.” The public should definitely grasp that very many micro-organisms are not only harmless but even essential to human life; that among those which cause disease no two are precisely alike in their pathogenic activity, which may range from extreme virulence down almost to innocuity; that the modes of infection are distinctive in each case, as by the air, or in the food, or by contact, and that the virulence of any given germ is often diminished by such factors as the length of its life history. The latter is particularly the case regarding the bacillus of leprosy. Possibly the disease was, many centuries ago, markedly infectious and dangerous to the community; if so this property has since become greatly modified. The ancient history of leprosy should not be the basis of our present-day conduct regarding it. There is now no reason for superstitious dread of the leper, and certainly no occasion for treating him with brutality.
LEPRAPHOBIA.. JAMA. 2008;299(23):2803. doi:10.1001/jama.299.23.2803