1. Sign our petition calling on Cochrane to withdraw their review of Exercise Therapy for CFS here.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Guest, the 'News in Brief' for the week beginning 11th September 2023 is here.
    Dismiss Notice
  3. Welcome! To read the Core Purpose and Values of our forum, click here.
    Dismiss Notice

Encephalitis lethargica - The forgotten epidemic

Discussion in 'Epidemics (including Covid-19, not Long Covid)' started by Sly Saint, Jul 8, 2020.

  1. Sly Saint

    Sly Saint Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    I watched 'Awakenings', the film from the 1990's starring Robert de Nero and Robin Williams.
    The film is based on the book 'Awakenings' by Dr Oliver Sacks published in 1973.
    (The names in the film have been changed)

    'It recounts the life histories of those who had been victims of the 1920s encephalitis lethargica epidemic.[2] Sacks chronicles his efforts in the late 1960s to help these patients at the Beth Abraham Hospital (now Beth Abraham Health Services) in the Bronx, New York. The treatment used the then-new drug L-DOPA.'

    I have been reading up on it generally as it was an excellent film.

    I was not aware that around the time of the Spanish flu pandemic that this other epidemic was also taking place.

    The forgotten “sleepy sickness” epidemic transformed victims into living statues, speechless and motionless, and scientists still don’t understand it


    there are several videos on Youtube of interviews with Dr Sacks and original footage of the patients he treated.

    merylg, Michelle, Mariaba and 19 others like this.
  2. Mithriel

    Mithriel Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    When I read the book I was surprised at how much some of it matched my symptoms. There was a Horizon programme that followed a woman who was sick after flu or a flu like illness. She was lucky enough to be sent to see a doctor who knew about encephalitis lethargic and he diagnosed it, she was treated and recovered.

    I wish I could remember the details but if she had developed it as a sporadic case there must be others that are missed.
    Perrier, Mariaba, Sisyphus and 10 others like this.
  3. Obermann

    Obermann Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Thank you for highlighting this forgotten epidemic. I find it interesting, as many critics of the ME diagnosis point out that the ME epidemics disappeared after the 1990s and they imply that this shows a psychological cause. Encephalitis lethargica is a good counter example. It swept the world in a pandemic from the late 1910s to the late 1920s. The fatality was large, 10–40%, and survivors often had severe sequelae. Yet, the cause of the illness is unknown and there still are sporadic cases. Hence also a physical illness may mysteriously appear and disappear without any explanation.
    Sisyphus, Michelle, Perrier and 12 others like this.
  4. Sly Saint

    Sly Saint Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    from the article I linked to in OP
    Sisyphus, Forbin, Mithriel and 4 others like this.
  5. Jaybee00

    Jaybee00 Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Are we sure that EL isn’t just severe ME/CFS? Why hasn’t there been an big outbreak of EL in recent years?
  6. rvallee

    rvallee Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Forbin likes this.
  7. Forbin

    Forbin Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    The Wikipedia article on EL also implicates an enterovirus as a possible cause of the disease:
    2012 article "Evidence for an enterovirus as the cause of encephalitis lethargica" https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3448500/
    Michelle, merylg, Sean and 1 other person like this.

Share This Page