List of myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome outbreaks

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There have been dozens of documented outbreaks of ME and CFS since the 1930s. Many of these outbreaks occurred at institutions for example, hospitals, schools, army bases or convents. The true number of clusters and outbreaks is likely vastly higher.


History of the name

Before the polio vaccine, outbreaks were often observed in towns experiencing polio epidemics, hence one of ME's earliest names, atypical polio. It is not known whether there is a relationship between polio outbreaks and ME or if outbreaks of ME were more likely to be reported when public health authorities were already mobilized for an earlier crisis.

After the outbreak in Akureyri, Iceland in 1946, the disease came to be called "Akureyri Disease" or Icelandic disease through much of the 1940s and 1950s. It was named Myalgic Encephalomyelitis after London's Royal Free Hospital outbreak in 1955.

After the Incline Village outbreak in Nevada in 1984, the disease came to be called and redefined as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Outbreaks by decade


1934 - Los Angeles, USA

Epidemic among personnel at L.A. County Hospital, Ruth Protection Home and throughout California, paralleling poliomyelitis, often diagnosed as atypical poliomyelitis, sometimes including arthropathy.

1936 - Fond-du-Lac, Wisconsin, USA

An outbreak of "encephalitis" in St. Agnes Convent.

1937 - Erstfeld, Switzerland

In less than two weeks, 130 soldiers stationed in Erstfeld, Switzerland became ill with a disease that was attributed to "Abortive Poliomyelitis."[1]

1937 - St. Gallen, Switzerland

Outbreak in the women's section of a hospital in St Gallen, Switzerland affecting 28 staff and patients. They were diagnosed with "Abortive Poliomyelitis." [1]

1939 - Middlesex, England

Outbreak at Harefield Sanatorium - "Persistent myalgia following sore throat."

1939 - Degersheim, St. Gallen, Switzerland

Seventy-three cases of epidemic neuromyasthenia were reported among 800 soldiers stationed in Degersheim, Switzerland.[1]


1945 - University Hospital of Pennsylvania, USA

Epidemic described as "pleurodynia with prominent neurological symptoms and no demonstrable cause."

1946-47 - Iceland

"Mixed epidemics of poliomyelitis and a disease resembling poliomyelitis with the character of the Akureyri Disease."

1948-49 - North Coast Towns, Iceland

"A disease epidemic in Iceland simulating Poliomyelitis" in three separate towns during this time.

1949-1953 - Adelaide, Australia

Outbreak of a disease resembling poliomyelitis, during/after a poliomyelitis epidemic.


1950 - Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Outbreak in the Nurse's Training School of St. Joseph Infirmary, later described as "epidemic neuromyasthenia."

1950 - Upper New York State, USA

Outbreak described as resembling the "Iceland Disease...simulating Acute Anterior Poliomyelitis."

1952 - London, England

Outbreak at Middlesex Hospital Nurses' Home described as "Encephalomyelitis associated with Poliomyelitis Virus."

1952 - Copenhagen, Denmark

Outbreak described as "epidemic myositis."

1952 - Lakeland, Florida, USA

Outbreak described as epidemic neuromyasthenia.

1953 - Coventry and Coventry District, England

"An illness resembling Poliomyelitis observed in nurses."

1953 - Rockville, Maryland, USA

Chestnut Lodge Hospital student nurses described with poliomyelitis-like epidemic neuromyasthenia.

1953 - Jutland, Denmark

Outbreak of "Epidemic encephalitis with vertigo."

1954 - Tallahassee, Florida, USA

Bond JO. A new clinical entity? Lancet 1956; 2:256.

1954 - Seward, Alaska

Outbreak described as "Benign Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (Iceland Disease)."

1954 - Berlin, Germany

Among the British Army, a "further outbreak of a disease resembling poliomyelitis."

1954 - Liverpool, England

Outbreak among medical and nursing staff in a Liverpool Hospital.

1954 - Dalston, Cumbria, England

" unusual disease seen in epidemic and sporadic form in general practice in 1955 and subsequent years."

1955 - London, England

Famous outbreak of benign myalgic encephalomyelitis among Royal Free Hospital staff.

1955 - Perth, Australia

"Virus epidemic in recurrent waves."

1955 - Gilfach Goch, Wales

Outbreak of Benign encephalomyelitis.

1955 - Durban and Durban City, South Africa

Outbreak among nurses at Addington Hospital called "The Durban Mystery Disease" describing neuromuscular dysfunction, and epidemic myalgic encephalomyelopathy, including sporadic cases in Johannesburg of a outbreak resembling poliomyelitis.

1955-56 - Segbwema, Sierra Leone

An outbreak of encephalomyelitis.

1955-56 - Patreksfordur and Thorshofn, Iceland

Unusual response to poliomyelitis vaccination.

1955-56 - North West London, England

Outbreak of acute infective encephalomyelitis simulating poliomyelitis among a residential home for nurses.

1956 - Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA

An epidemic of neuromyasthenia.

1956 - Punta Gorda, Florida, USA

An outbreak of epidemic neuromyasthenia.

1956 - Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire, England

Outbreak described as "lymphocytic meningo-encephalitis with myalgia and rash," "An outbreak of a disease believed to have been cause by Echo 9 virus," with other varying descriptions.

1956 - Pittsfield, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA

Outbreak of "epidemic neuromyasthenia" later described as benign myalgic encephalomyelitis. (Included in this summary are sporadic cases in Hygiea, Sweden, with descriptions of encephalitis, meningitis or poliomyelitis; Coxsackie B and Echo Virus infections; benign myalgic encephalomyelitis.)

1956-57 - Coventry, England

Outbreak described as epidemic malaise and benign myalgic encephalomyelitis.

1957 - Brighton, South Australia

Outbreak described as "Coxsackie, Echo Virus meningitis and myalgic encephalomyelitis", "Epidemic myalgic encephalomyelitis," and "Benign myalgic encephalomyelitis."

1958 - Athens, Greece

An outbreak of benign myalgic encephalomyelitis in a nurse's school, "periostitis and arthropathy noted." (Included in this summary is an outbreak of benign myalgic encephalomyelitis in Switzerland.)

1958-59 - S.W. London, England

Reports of sporadic cases of myalgic encephalomyelitis.

1959 - Newcastle upon Tyne, England

Outbreak of benign myalgic encephalomylitis.

1959 - N.W. London, England

Reports of sporadic cases of influenza-like illness.

1959 - England

Article describing sporadic cases and "The psychiatric sequelae of Benign Myalgic Encephalomyelitis."


1961 - Basel, Switzerland

Sporadic case of benign myalgic encephalomyelitis described.

1961-62 - New York State, USA

Outbreak described as epidemic neuromyasthenia in a convent in New York State.

1964-66 - N.W. London, England

Outbreak described as epidemic malaise and epidemic neuromyasthenia occurred in North Finchley, a suburb of London, England.

1964-66 - Franklin, Kentucky, USA

Outbreak of "neurmyasthenia" in a Kentucky factory, possibly due to mercury exposure.

1965-66 - Galveston County, Texas, USA

Outbreak described as "Epidemic Neuromyasthenia Variant?" and "Epidemic Diencephalomyelitis," the latter describing neuropsychiatric, cardiovascular and endocrine disorders.

1967-70 - Edinburgh, Scotland

Sporadic cases resembling benign myalgic encephalomyelitis.

1968 - Fraidek, Lebanon

Report on an epidemic of benign myalgic encephalomyelitis.

1969 - State University of New York, USA

Medical Centre - report of epidemic Neuromyasthenia and "unidentified symptom complex."


1970 - Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, USA

Epidemic Neuromyasthenia reported. "A syndrome or disease?"

1970-71 - London, England

An outbreak of "epidemic neuromyasthenia" among nurses a the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Oromond Street.

1975 - Sacramento, California, USA

In 1975, an epidemic started first among the ICU staff and later spread throughout Mercy San Juan Hospital, in Carmichael, a suburb of Sacramento, CA. An estimated 200 people became ill. Dr Ryll, who headed the investigating medical team, called it "Infectious Venulitis" which he later believed to be a variant of ME/CFS.[2][3]

1976 - Southwest Ireland

Reports on Mylagic Encephalomyelits and epidemic neuromyasthenia in this region.

1977 - Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, USA

"Epidemic Neuromyasthenia" reported.

1978 - Symposium

Ed. note: Dr. Hyde's text notes that the first major ME symposium was held at the Royal Society of Medicine in London in this year. ME aka epidemic neuromyasthenia, viral relationships to this disease, biochemical abnormalities in patients and other subjects were discussed by experts such as Shelokov, Ramsay, Richardson, Behan, Parish and others.[4]

1979 - Southampton, England

Outbreak of M.E. in a girls' school.


1980-1988 Children’s hospital San Diego outbreak closes down Hospital. CDC investigates. Six children die 1980. Medical doctor and two intensive care nurses die.

1980-81 - West Kilbridge, Ayrshire, Scotland

M.E. epidemic reported in a rural medical practice.

1980-83 - Helensburgh, Scotland

Coxsackie B outbreak reported in a general practice.

1981-82 - Stirlingshire, Scotland

Sporadic cases of M.E. reported.

1981 - Gunnedah, NSW, Australia

The Gunnedah outbreak was linked with pesticides, which were conjectured to be interacting with viruses and other environmental chemicals in a post-viral syndrome.[5] Those affected included one local GP, with that GP forming the view this was clearly a physical illness. The outbreak was featured in a film More than Just Poison made in 1986 by the Toxic and Hazardous Chemicals Committee.[6]

1984 - Tapanui & West Otago, New Zealand

Outbreak first described and an "unexplained illness," later as M.E. Included here are outbreaks in Dunedin and Hamilton New Zealand.

1984 - North America (Endemic)

"From 1984 until 1992 [at publication of this text] an endemic period occurred in which an usually large number of cluster and epidemics of M.E./CFS have been recognized in North America. After an apparent initial increase in the morbidity in 1983 there seemed to have appeared in late summer of 1984 an unprecedented increase of sporadic and epidemic cases across North America. Although certain geographical hot spots seen to have taken up much of the medical interest, this endemic situation probably represents an unusual and unremitting morbidity in all areas of the United States and Canada." -Dr. Byron Hyde-

1984 - Incline village, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA

A chronic illness characterized by fatigue, neurologic and immunologic disorders and active human herpesvirus type 6 infection. This community epidemic apparently started in a girls' basketball team, then involved primarily teachers in at least three high schools, and then large numbers of the community.[7]

Note: This outbreak prompted a Centers for Disease Control response and was the catalyst for the name Chronic fatigue syndrome and the development of the CDC's 1994 research diagnostic tool Fukuda criteria used worldwide.

1984 - Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

"Epidemic amongst members of The North Carolina Symphony Orchestra. Low NKC [Natural Killer Cells] associated with high yield of lymphoma, astrocytoma, glioma."

All the members of the N.C. Symphony Orchestra, Chapel Hill, NC got sick. Seven remained ill with chronic fatigue as late as 2009.

A series of studies done in 1988 and 1989 by the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Center showed that four of the inflicted NC orchestra members who developed cancer had lower levels of activity of natural killer cells, a type of immune cell that can directly kill cancer.

1984 - Montreal, Quebec-Ontario, Canada

Over 500 cases of M.E./CFS documented during August-November 1984 period. This endemic was active in all parts of Canada during this period and appears [to] have maintained its activity until the time of writing in 1991.

1984-85 - Truckee, California, USA

M.E. epidemic involving teachers and students. 1984 - 1985: Incline Village Nevada Lake Tahoe outbreak in town and all people vacationing at This resort town.

1985 - Lyndonville, New York, USA

M.E. epidemic in a rural community involving children and adults.[7]

1985 Yerington, Nevada, USA

In the same area [not far from Truckee, California] an M.E./CFS-like epidemic reputedly occurred in a reservation of American Native people.

1986 - Placerville, California, USA

Outbreak of chronic fatigue syndrome 'coincident with a heavy contamination of the local unfiltered water supply'.

1988 - Sonora, California, USA

"More than 35 children and adults were diagnosed with M.E. in the mountain country 100 miles from Lake Tahoe. Many of these patients were associated in some way with Columbia Community College."

1988 - Narrabeen, NSW, Australia


1989 - Roseville, California, USA

Rosedale Hospital reported 11 cases of M.E./CFS among staff.


1990 - Elk Grove, California, USA

M.E. epidemic among teachers and students.

1996 - Mohave Valley region, Arizona, USA

Over 100 people became ill with a "multi-system stealth virus infection with encephalopathy (MSVIE)." A protracted course followed, with a diverse range of symptoms similar to CFS.[9]

Outbreaks by region

North America


United States








United Kingdom




Sierra Leone

South Africa

Australia and New Zealand


New Zealand

Related Lists

See also


The information provided at this site is not intended to diagnose or treat any illness.

From MEpedia, a crowd-sourced encyclopedia of ME and CFS science and history