Adventures in Peru, Chapter 14

Too Horrible for Words

Tales of Far Peru, Part 5

Lupus is a terrible disease, but Sana is even worse. Sana is a variety of pox that sometimes affects llamas, and is contracted by human beings who come in contact with their sputum. A fruitful source of infection is also the bestial habits of some of the natives. To counteract this menace, the Governments of Peru and Bolivia will not allow Indians to travel with llamas for a period of more than fourteen days unless they take their wives with them. If the natives have a spite against anyone they frequently find means to infect them with this unsavoury disease. It generally manifests itself in unsightly sores and scabs which extend all over the subject’s head till it is a mass of putridity. The Indian remedy is a simple and efficacious one, but few Europeans would care to take it. Some, in fact, would esteem it too horrible for words. Whenever the malady yields to treatment prescribed by ordinary practitioners, the disease leaves behind it remembrancers in the shape of white tufts of hair. The native method is not attended with such distinctive souvenirs.

Some doctors confuse it with syphilis. I can assure them the two maladies are quite distinct, and call for different treatment. Maybe the idea was induced by the fact that syphilis was introduced into Europe by Pizarro’s men, who, it is said, caught it from the Indians of South America.

It is just on the cards that I may bring home to England, one of these days, the carcass of a diseased llama. For I have been approached by the head of a certain tropical hospital, who thinks that if the disease could be exactly diagnosed medical science would greatly benefit. I am quite willing to go and procure a suitable animal, and fetch it over here in the form of Challona, but the cost would be a matter of £500. Perhaps some philanthropic individual will put up that sum in the interests of medical research. If so, the job could soon be carried through.

A certain Englishman of my acquaintance married a girl belonging to a tribe of Mountain Indians, and tried to smuggle her out of the Indian territory. On the border line he was stopped, and ordered to take the girl back to her people. Knowing the penalties attached to disobedience, he lost no time in complying with the command. He was not permitted to return to the outer world for some time. During his detention he got too near a herd of llamas. One of them that was obviously suffering from Sana and savage with pain, spat on his head. Before many days had passed foul-smelling ulcers made their appearance. He consulted several doctors, and they told him he had contracted syphilis. On mentioning the matter to his wife’s father, he said that if the culprit was really sorry he had broken their Indian law, he could soon be cured. The Englishman readily gave the required assurance, and was then taken in hand by the medicine man, who plastered his head with clay and other ingredients. Within a very short time he “got shot” of his malady; but to the day of his death little white tufts of hair denoted where the ulcers had been. He came to Jura for change of air while I was there, and in hopes of enjoying some guanaco hunting, brought his horse with him. During his stay there he pointed out to me a Peruvian miner who was suffering from Sana. Several ugly-looking ulcers were distinctly visible on his head. I asked Morosini to keep an eye on the fellow, and let me know if he derived any benefit from the waters. My friend told me subsequently, that three weeks’ treatment sufficed to render the Peruvian’s cuticle as clean as a baby’s. He made no mention of any white tufts of hair being left behind.

Dyspeptics find relief at Jura. I know one lady who went there on the recommendation of an eminent Italian physician, and after undergoing the cure for three months, she could digest anything.


One thought on “Too Horrible for Words

  1. I’m not sure why Prodgers italicised The twice in this passage. I can find no details about Sana online, nor any indication of what the disease might be called today.

Comments are closed.