Changing Patterns of Kuru: Epidemiological Changes in the Period of Increasing Contact of the Fore People with Western Civilization

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Summary

Analysis of the records of kuru from 1957 to 1964, including over 1450 patients, shows that there has been a progressive decline in kuru mortality and incidence over this period, present in adults and children, but most marked among the latter, and especially so in the youngest age group.

More detailed analysis by sex and age distribution, and by ethnic and geographic division has been undertaken by a comparison of the figures for two three-year periods, 1957 to 1957 and 1961 to 1963.

Age-duration studies show that the duration of the disease has increased in adults in the more recent period. Evidence is also put forward for the possibility of a seasonal variation in the incidence of kuru.

The possible implications of these results are briefly discussed and it is suggested that the changes may be related directly to the process of acculturation to Western civilization which has taken place in the kuru region throughout the period under study.

Author Notes

Department of Public Health, Territory of Papua and New Guinea; and National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

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