Are Ebola Patients America’s New ‘Lepers’?

A Century Ago, Panic over Leprosy Led to Rampant Stigma and Bizarre Quarantines

Members of a cleaning crew with "Bio Recovery Corporation" push a barrel to be loaded in a truck of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after cleaning the apartment where Dr. Craig Spencer lives in

The reaction to Ebola isn’t new. Few things alarm people as much as the perceived danger of a deadly or devastating disease. History shows that responses to epidemics often lack a rational or scientific basis. Certainly this was true with leprosy.

Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, existed in several parts of the United States in the 19th century and the early 20th century. By the late 19th century, it was endemic in states, including Texas, Florida, New York, and Louisiana, where I live and teach and have written books about its …

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