Monday, February 14, 2011

The end of Kuru

A Fore woman in mourning covered with ashes, in 1957.

With the end of cannibalism in New Guinea Kuru gradually declined. In 2006 and 2007 for example there were zero cases and in 2008 the Royal Society of London held a conference to celebrate the end of Kuru. The papers are all gathered together in an issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and, in contrast to most conferences, include a fascinating array of personal recollections as well as scientific papers. These personal recollections are often quite moving. Check out:

‘My late husband Mr Anua was a hard-working man’
'We had to climb mountains and cross fast-flowing rivers'

‘Most people still believe that kuru is caused by sorcery’

There are also more detailed papers about the epidemiology of Kuru:

Understanding kuru: the contribution of anthropology and medicine
Early perceptions of an epidemic

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