May 12, 2006
Conspiracy to cover up hysterical delusions?
I heard about a strange new disease today:
If diseases like AIDS and bird flu scare you, wait until you hear what's next. Doctors are trying to find out what is causing a bizarre and mysterious infection that's surfaced in South Texas.The description of symptoms reads like something out of a science fiction novel, and the disease is completely new. They don't know what it is or what is causing it, but they've come up with a name -- and a web site -- Morgellons Disease:
The unknown fibers associated with skin lesions can be described as coenocytic (aseptate), smooth-walled, branching, filamentous objects. The fibers have been analyzed by FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy) and have tentatively been identified as cellulose.Sheesh.
This reminds me of the extraterrrestial disease plaguing Stephen King's character ("The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill") in Creep Show. While I wish I could declare this some sort of hoax, the Center for Disease control is said to be taking it very seriously:
The physician should contact the county health department and inform them that they have a patient suspected of having Morgellons disease, etiology unknown. The county health department should then contact the state health department, who will in turn inform the CDC about the patient in question.The Museum of Hoaxes offers inconclusive speculation about whether it's a hoax. More discussion here. And Popular Mechanics discusses both sides:
Across the country, thousands of people complaining of the same horrifying phenomenon have formed an illness subculture. They share lists of symptoms, medical speculation and tales of run-ins with mainstream doctors at www.morgellons.org, the official Web site of a group called the Morgellons Research Foundation. It was founded in 2002 by Mary Leitao in McMurray, Pa. Leitao named the condition Morgellons Disease--after a disease with similar symptoms mentioned in a 16th-century medical text--while investigating a skin affliction on her then-2-year-old son.An illness subculture? Hmmmm.....
I'm wondering. Might it be related to an excess of methamphetamine or other drug use? (Years ago I knew a man who was absolutely convinced that there were tiny critters -- "THEY CAN'T BE CAUGHT! AND THEY CAN'T BE SEEN!" he claimed -- crawling all over the house, and his body. Drugs had made his perceptions overly sensitive to the human scabies mites, which we all have but which normal people don't, um, "feel.")
Not that hysterical illnesses need be drug related. I knew a woman who suffered from hysterical blindness but who really was blind. Her eye doctor knew enough about psychiatry to ask her about her emotional life and when she told him that she had a violently abusive husband, he solemnly told her that her blindness would not go away until she had left her husband for at least a few months. She left her husband, and three months later, she could see.
Concludes Popular Mechanics:
Leitao and other Morgellons activists say that, with the Web as a primary tool, they'll continue working to have the illness investigated as an infectious disease. Doctors interviewed by PM say this unilateral approach hinders objective analysis of symptoms they've seen for decades. Well, all symptoms except for one: Widespread reports of the strange fibers date back only three years, to the time they were first described online, at www.morgellons.org.
KTVU broke this story last year and now we've learned more than 1,200 people nationwide say they have the same skin lesions and bizarre fibers. Ironically, most are in the medical profession. Adults as well as children have it and it may be contagious.Could it be a mass delusion?
What does the CDC say officially, anyway?
What raises my antennae is the absence of anything on the CDC web site coupled with the Morgellons web site assertion that "the CDC has a team assigned to investigate Morgellons Disease."
A grand conspiracy, or a mass delusion?
As for me, I intend to keep checking for symptoms!
posted by Eric on 05.12.06 at 04:40 PM
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