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Skinmed. 2012 May-Jun;10(3):174-9.


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Pellagra was first described in the 18th century as an epidemic in the poverty-stricken Spanish countryside by Gaspar Casal. Pellagra did not appear in the United States until the turn of the 20th century. It then ravaged the Southern United States and was not eliminated until the 1940s. This short report will redact the descriptions of pellagra in two early textbooks of dermatology. The first, published in 1897 before cases of pellagra were recognized in the United States, and, the second, published in 1915 in the midst of the epidemic. The text published in 1915 described in detail the medical signs and symptoms of pellagra particularly as they relate to the skin, as well as speculations as to its cause. The complicated story of the socioeconomic situation of the Southern United States and the hunt for the cause of pellagra will also be discussed briefly.

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