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The Atoll of Funafuti, Ellice group : its zoology, botany, ethnology and general structure based on collections made by Charles Hedley of the Australian Museum, Sydney, N.S.W.

Prevalent Diseases of Funafuti

Prevalent Diseases of Funafuti.

"Ruffa, or Tokelau ringworm, Tinea desquamosa. The skin appears rough and scaly from constant desquamation, in many cases the whole body is affected, in others the face and neck are the parts attacked. The rate of desquamation varies considerably, where the process is slow the skin is covered in small patches an inch and a half by an inch in size; desquamation commencing at the borders of these small patches causes sinuous outlines running one into the other. Tha scalp seems to entirely escape the disease. As indications of scratching are only occasionally seen, it seems that the irritation caused by this condition is only moderate, and in the two cases where such indications occurred the disease had attacked the face and neck.

"Ruffa, when cured, leaves a peculiar mottled appearance of the skin, usually a lighter tint is produced by diminution of the colour, but the opposite effect appeared when persons of advanced age had been attacked. Never does the skin regain its smooth velvety condition.

"Most encouraging results were obtained by a treatment of this disease which consisted in washing the patient with soap and water to remove as many of the scales as possible, after thorough drying the patient was told to rub with ointment two or three times a day for three days, then to leave the ointment on the body for two or three days and finally to again wash the body with soap and water; the process being repeated two or three times. In a case under my treatment where the disease was limited in area, three such applications sufficed to effect a cure.

"The following perscription proved very beneficial, and after employment in cases which I personally superintended, and with page 70whose results I was most gratified, was an ointment in great request among the natives:

Chrysophanic acid 2 drachms
Liquor picis ligni 2 ounces
Carbolic acid 20 drops
Beeswax 2½ drachms
Clarified Lard 1 pound

There is little doubt that the essential element in killing the parasite is the Chrysophanic Acid, and the Liquor picis ligni diminishes the tendency to inflammation which is apt to be caused by the Chrysophanic Acid. The latter also gives a pleasant smell which is congenial to the native.

" After constant application for a fortnight one case was cured by this prescription:—

Ammonia chloride of mercury 1 ounce
Liquor picis ligni 1 ounce
Beeswax 2½ ounces
Clarified lard 1 pound

"Tonna.* —There is a disease called Tonna, which consists of a scattered pustular eruption attacking the face, neck, trunk and limbs of children between one and three years of age. In severe cases it lasts from three to eighteen months, during which time the general health of the child seems to be deficient. The comparatively healthy skin between the pustules is dull, dry, and has as a rule, lost its smooth soft state. In severe cases the pustules, through dirt, neglect, and unhealthiness of constitution, are apt to break down into an ulcerative process causing cicatrical contraction in healing.

"In a few cases this ulcerative condition and its results are seen in adults, and, when attacking the face and neck, causes much disfigurement, exposing the mucous surface of the eyelids, lips, &c, and in one case, if not fixing the head in an immobile position, at least rendering considerable diminution in movement.

"Amongst the adult population, besides the above described conditions, periosteal enlargement of the tibia and arm bones occur, which is occasionally accompanied with pyrexial attacks lasting for a few days, when increased pain and tenderness over the nodular masses is experienced.

"Again, a similar ulcerative process that attacks the skin, takes place in the mucous membrane, bones and cartilage of the nose and larynx, causing a marked flattening of the nose.

page 71

"From the foregoing remarks it will be gathered, that between these symptoms and the ordinary course of specific disease there are many points of similarity. Before proceeding further it is well to state that I was unable to find any venereal disease amongst the natives; in fact, disease the result of intercourse seemed unknown. Yet though, in the disease called "tonna," there was no point observable of primary inoculation, many of the symptoms are allied to those noticed in the course of a syphilitic history; thus the pustular symptom is similar to the secondary rash of syphilis, the ulcerative process apt to follow the above lesion might be said to correspond to the reminder or early tertiary stages, while the periosteal nodes and the ulcerative process of the nasal cartilages would be the tertiary stage. This comparison of course presumes that the periosteal condition, &c, is a direct result or sequence of the early pustular disease. And in support of this presumption it may be added, that in all patients who had these periosteal manifestations that there were indications or history of tonna. On the other hand, it may be said that most natives have had tonna.

"Ordinary care and protection much improved the pustular or early ulcerative state, and specific remedies were most efficacious in ulcerative and periosteal conditions.

"Several cases of permanent blindness among the natives had been caused by Keratites and Irites. One case of Irites developing in a lad of eighteen from no apparent cause, was effectually cured by atropine solution locally supplied, with two grains of mercury and chalk given twice a day for a fortnight."

page 72

Bakua or Tiripa in New Britain. Danks—Proc. Austr. Assoc. Adv. Sci. for 1892 (1893), p. 616. For a full discussion of this disease, see Guppy—Solomon Islands, 1887, p. 172.

* Compare H. S. Cooper—Coral Lands, ii., 1880, p. 73. The Tongans knew this disease by the same name in the first decade of the century, vide Mariner—loc. cit., ii., p. 270.