The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - Appendices. 'Detailed Report on the Naga Hills Expedition of 1878-80', Capt. P.J. Maitland

caption: medical notes
caption: diseases contracted in the Naga Hills
medium: reports
person: O'Brien/ Dr.
person: Maitland/ Capt. P.J.
date: 1880
person: India Office Library, London
refnum: IOR L/MIL/17/18/24
text: Prevalent diseases.- Besides scurvy, malarious fevers, dysentery, and diarrhoea were the most important diseases. Febricula or ordinary feverish cold, skin diseases, and affections of the chest came next.
text: In the 44th Native Infantry there were 48 cases of the formidable Naga ulcer. This disease has been a terrible epidemic scourge in the Naga Hills for two years (1878 and 1879). Whole villages suffer at the same time, and several hundred Nagas are said to have died from it. The sore is a huge circular ulcer, commonly situated between the knee and the ankle, or over the instep. It is rare elsewhere unless carried by direct contagion. That it is contagious has been proved by the fact that on one occasion when bandages were scarce, and it became necessary to use them a second time after being washed, a bandage which had been originally used for a Naga sore was applied to the stump of an amputated arm, to which it transferred the virus, and the wound became an enormous sore. Some medical officers believe the disease to be scorbutic in its origin, but the same might be said of any other disease prevalent in the district, as a large proportion of the Nagas are scorbutic. It also attacks scorbutic subjects and others alike. For these reasons Dr. O'Brien is not disposed to believe it is due to the taint of scurvy, and he remarks that he has seen scurvy as prevalent elsewhere, but the typical Naga sore only in the Naga Hills. The frontier police have suffered severely, and some sepoys died from the exhaustion caused by the enormous sloughing ulcer. There have been no cases in the Katcha Naga country, or in the Kuki country, and none in Manipur. The Nagas say it was introduced by Garo coolies. The villages which have suffered most are Samaguting, Piphima, Kohima, Mezuma ( Mozima), Jotsoma, Konoma, and Sakaboma. ( Annual Report of the 44th Native Infantry.)
text: With the exception of scurvy and these sores, the Nagas appear to be tolerably free from disease. Small-pox is almost unknown among them, owing probably to the infrequency of their intercourse with neighbouring peoples, and to manner in which individual cases are isolated; whereas some adjacent tribes positively court small-pox, and spread it in every possible, way.
text: Goitre is prevalent in certain places, and indicates the presence of lime in the water, though no limestone has as yet been found.