1937 Erstfeld outbreak

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1937 Erstfeld outbreak: Within 12 day in July 1937, 130 of the 930 soldiers stationed at in the small town of Erstfeld, Switzerland became sick with an illness that, because of its similarities, may have been a forerunner to ME. At the time the doctors referred to it as "Abortive Poliomyelitis*."[1]

(*Abortive Poliomyelitis accounts for 80-90% of polio cases, is a mild form of poliomyelitis that does not involve the central nervous system, does not cause permanent disabilities of any kind, and recovery is within a couple days. Symptoms are similar to the flu: fever, malaise, headache, sore throat and vomiting.[2])

In the cases in the Erstfeld outbreak, 83% had systemic symptoms, 12% had meningeal involvement (involvement of the lining of the brain and spinal cord), and 5% develop encephalomyelitis with paresis (muscular weakness caused by nerve damage or disease or partial paralysis). The cerebrospinal fluid was normal. Sweating and abnormal acuteness of sensitivity to touch, pain, or other sensory stimuli were common. Diminished muscle tone was noted in those who complained of sharp pain in their legs. None of the soldiers suffered permanent damage and the epidemic did not spread to any of the citizens in the town. One publication referred to the epidemic as a "striking phenomenon for which no analogy could be found in the European literature."[3]

A medical paper written contemporaneously is: Stahel H. (1938) Die Poliomyelitis — Epidemia bei Stab Geb. IR 37 and Geb Sch Bat II, Erstfeld, 18–30 Juli, 1937. Die Abortiv — Poliomyelitis. Schweizerische medizinische Wochenschrift, 68 86–91. [4]

A similar epidemic was recorded in September, 1937, less than three months later, in the women's section of a St. Gallen hospital, Switzerland, less than 200 km or 125 miles away from Erstfeld.[5]

See Also[edit]


  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2425322/?page=2
  2. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=8611
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2425322/?page=2
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2425322/?page=7
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2425322/?page=2

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