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An outbreak of illness in poultry and humans in 16th century Indonesia

Sanjaya N Senanayake and Brett C Baker
Med J Aust 2007; 187 (11): 693-695.
Published online: 3 December 2007

An obscure Portuguese document from 16th century Indonesia describes an illness that destroyed poultry before devastating the human population of the region. The cause of the illness remains unresolved; it may have been infectious or non-infectious. Isolation of the region because of trading practices probably prevented spread of the illness, reinforcing the value of quarantine or isolation as a public health measure

The following extract comes from an unsigned treatise written by António Galvão, captain from 1536 to 1539 of the Portuguese fortress on the island of Ternate in the Maluku archipelago, in what is now Indonesia (Box):

  • Sanjaya N Senanayake1
  • Brett C Baker2

  • 1 Department of Microbiology, Canberra Hospital, Canberra, ACT.
  • 2 Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT.


Competing interests:

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