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Posts Tagged ‘Kuru produced a Swiss-cheesing of the brain

Avoid those trendy ‘Long Pig’ restaurants

September 29, 2015

Kuru is a neurodegenerative disorder that surfaced among the South Fore of New Guinea, and the dynamics of this disease have been explored by various scholars. Lindenbaum worked with the South Fore and studied the kuru disease. Zigas worked in New Guinea, and Gadjusek also traveled there in 1957 to study disease patterns in primitive and isolated populations (Gadjusek, 1996). Lindenbaum, Zigas, and Gadjusek were all crucial to explaining the marked, specific properties of kuru to the rest of the world.

The kuru epidemic reached its height in the 1960’s (Lindenbaum, 1979). Between 1957 and 1968, over 1,100 of the South Fore died from kuru (Lindenbaum, 1979). The vast majority of victims among the South Fore were women. In fact, eight times more women than men contracted the disease (Lindenbaum, 1979). It later affected small children and the elderly at a high rate as well. This is to be expected, since women were the prime participants in mortuary cannibalism (Lindenbaum, 1979). It is currently believed that kuru was transmitted among the South Fore through participation in such cannibalism. Upon the death of an individual, the maternal kin were in charge of the dismemberment of the corpse (Lindenbaum, 1979). The women would remove the arms and feet, strip the limbs of muscle, remove the brains, and cut open the chest in order to remove internal organs (Lindenbaum, 1979). Lindenbaum (1979) states that kuru victims were highly regarded as sources of food, because the layer of fat on victims who died quickly resembled pork. Women also were known to feed morsels such as human brains and various parts of organs to their children and the elderly (Lindenbaum, 1979).