How Did the Measles Virus First Arrive in Fiji?

Everyone deserves a vacation, but when Fiji's King Cakobau took a trip to Sydney, Australia, in 1875 to celebrate his country becoming officially protected under British rule, he came back with something much worse than jet lag. King Cakobau and his entourage brought back measles, and the ensuing epidemic wiped out approximately one-third of his countrymen. The devastation popularized the term "virgin soil epidemic," which refers to a widespread disease that suddenly infests a place where it had never been present before. Before King Cakobau's trip to Australia, Fiji's islands had always been safe from the spread of disease from outsiders because they lie so far from most of civilization.

Facts about Fiji:

  • The tradition of walking on red-hot stones began in Fiji approximately 500 years ago.

  • The only person allowed to wear a hat and sunglasses in a traditional Fijian village is the chief.

  • Raising one's eyebrows can mean different things in Fiji, from saying "yes" to hailing a taxi.

More Info: NIH Record

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