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1823: Leprosy is suspected in Hawai‘i

Native Hawaiians report that a mysterious disease has arrived in their islands from China, brought by Chinese sailors or by Native Hawaiians who have been sent to China on trade missions. They call the disease ma‘i pake, meaning “Chinese disease,” and also m‘ai ali‘i, meaning “chief’s or royal disease.”

Leprosy, a chronic bacterial infection, has been a disease recognized in humans for more than 4,000 years. Today, leprosy is usually called Hansen’s disease, after the Norwegian physician Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen who identified the bacterium that causes it.