List of myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome outbreaks
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.
- 1 History of the name
- 2 Outbreaks by decade
- 2.1 1930s
- 2.2 1940s
- 2.3 1950s
- 2.3.1 1950 - Louisville, Kentucky, USA
- 2.3.2 1950 - Upper New York State, USA
- 2.3.3 1952 - London, England
- 2.3.4 1952 - Copenhagen, Denmark
- 2.3.5 1952 - Lakeland, Florida, USA
- 2.3.6 1953 - Coventry and Coventry District, England
- 2.3.7 1953 - Rockville, Maryland, USA
- 2.3.8 1953 - Jutland, Denmark
- 2.3.9 1954 - Tallahassee, Florida, USA
- 2.3.10 1954 - Seward, Alaska
- 2.3.11 1954 - Berlin, Germany
- 2.3.12 1954 - Liverpool, England
- 2.3.13 1954 - Dalston, Cumbria, England
- 2.3.14 1955 - London, England
- 2.3.15 1955 - Perth, Australia
- 2.3.16 1955 - Gilfach Goch, Wales
- 2.3.17 1955 - Durban and Durban City, South Africa
- 2.3.18 1955-56 - Segbwema, Sierra Leone
- 2.3.19 1955-56 - Patreksfordur and Thorshofn, Iceland
- 2.3.20 1955-56 - North West London, England
- 2.3.21 1956 - Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA
- 2.3.22 1956 - Punta Gorda, Florida, USA
- 2.3.23 1956 - Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire, England
- 2.3.24 1956 - Pittsfield, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA
- 2.3.25 1956-57 - Coventry, England
- 2.3.26 1957 - Brighton, South Australia
- 2.3.27 1958 - Athens, Greece
- 2.3.28 1958-59 - S.W. London, England
- 2.3.29 1959 - Newcastle upon Tyne, England
- 2.3.30 1959 - N.W. London, England
- 2.3.31 1959 - England
- 2.4 1960s
- 2.4.1 1961 - Basel, Switzerland
- 2.4.2 1961-62 - New York State, USA
- 2.4.3 1964-66 - N.W. London, England
- 2.4.4 1964-66 - Franklin, Kentucky, USA
- 2.4.5 1965-66 - Galveston County, Texas, USA
- 2.4.6 1967-70 - Edinburgh, Scotland
- 2.4.7 1968 - Fraidek, Lebanon
- 2.4.8 1969 - State University of New York, USA
- 2.5 1970s
- 2.6 1980s
- 2.6.1 1980-81 - West Kilbridge, Ayrshire, Scotland
- 2.6.2 1980-83 - Helensburgh, Scotland
- 2.6.3 1981-82 - Stirlingshire, Scotland
- 2.6.4 1981 - Gunnedah, NSW, Australia
- 2.6.5 1984 - Tapanui & West Otago, New Zealand
- 2.6.6 1984 - North America (Endemic)
- 2.6.7 1984 - Incline village, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA
- 2.6.8 1984 - Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
- 2.6.9 1984 - Montreal, Quebec-Ontario, Canada
- 2.6.10 1984-85 - Truckee, California, USA
- 2.6.11 1985 - Lyndonville, New York, USA
- 2.6.12 1985 Yerington, Nevada, USA
- 2.6.13 1986 - Placerville, California, USA
- 2.6.14 1988 - Sonora, California, USA
- 2.6.15 1988 - Narrabeen, NSW, Australia
- 2.6.16 1989 - Roseville, California, USA
- 2.7 1990s
- 3 Outbreaks by region
- 3.1 North America
- 3.2 Europe
- 3.3 Asia
- 3.4 Africa
- 3.5 Australia and New Zealand
- 4 Related Lists
- 5 References
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.
Outbreaks by decade
Epidemic among personnel at L.A. County Hospital, Ruth Protection Home and throughout California, paralleling poliomyelitis, often diagnosed as atypical poliomyelitis, sometimes including arthropathy.
An outbreak of "encephalitis" in St. Agnes Convent.
In less than two weeks, 130 soldiers stationed in Erstfeld, Switzerland became ill with a disease that was attributed to "Abortive Poliomyelitis."
Outbreak in the women's section of a hospital in St Gallen, Switzerland affecting 28 staff and patients. They were diagnosed with "Abortive Poliomyelitis." 
Outbreak at Harefield Sanatorium - "Persistent myalgia following sore throat."
Seventy-three cases of epidemic neuromyasthenia were reported among 800 soldiers stationed in Degersheim, Switzerland.
Epidemic described as "pleurodynia with prominent neurological symptoms and no demonstrable cause."
"Mixed epidemics of poliomyelitis and a disease resembling poliomyelitis with the character of the Akureyri Disease."
"A disease epidemic in Iceland simulating Poliomyelitis" in three separate towns during this time.
Outbreak of a disease resembling poliomyelitis, during/after a poliomyelitis epidemic.
Outbreak in the Nurse's Training School of St. Joseph Infirmary, later described as "epidemic neuromyasthenia."
Outbreak described as resembling the "Iceland Disease...simulating Acute Anterior Poliomyelitis."
Outbreak at Middlesex Hospital Nurses' Home described as "Encephalomyelitis associated with Poliomyelitis Virus."
Outbreak described as "epidemic myositis."
Outbreak described as epidemic neuromyasthenia.
"An illness resembling Poliomyelitis observed in nurses."
Chestnut Lodge Hospital student nurses described with poliomyelitis-like epidemic neuromyasthenia.
Outbreak of "Epidemic encephalitis with vertigo."
Bond JO. A new clinical entity? Lancet 1956; 2:256.
Outbreak described as "Benign Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (Iceland Disease)."
Among the British Army, a "further outbreak of a disease resembling poliomyelitis."
Outbreak among medical and nursing staff in a Liverpool Hospital.
"...an unusual disease seen in epidemic and sporadic form in general practice in 1955 and subsequent years."
Famous outbreak of benign myalgic encephalomyelitis among Royal Free Hospital staff.
"Virus epidemic in recurrent waves."
Outbreak of Benign encephalomyelitis.
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.
An outbreak of encephalomyelitis.
Unusual response to poliomyelitis vaccination.
Outbreak of acute infective encephalomyelitis simulating poliomyelitis among a residential home for nurses.
An epidemic of neuromyasthenia.
An outbreak of epidemic neuromyasthenia.
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.
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.)
Outbreak described as epidemic malaise and benign myalgic encephalomyelitis.
Outbreak described as "Coxsackie, Echo Virus meningitis and myalgic encephalomyelitis", "Epidemic myalgic encephalomyelitis," and "Benign myalgic encephalomyelitis."
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.)
Reports of sporadic cases of myalgic encephalomyelitis.
Outbreak of benign myalgic encephalomylitis.
Reports of sporadic cases of influenza-like illness.
Article describing sporadic cases and "The psychiatric sequelae of Benign Myalgic Encephalomyelitis."
Sporadic case of benign myalgic encephalomyelitis described.
Outbreak described as epidemic neuromyasthenia in a convent in New York State.
Outbreak described as epidemic malaise and epidemic neuromyasthenia.
Outbreak of "neurmyasthenia" in a Kentucky factory, possibly due to mercury exposure.
Outbreak described as "Epidemic Neuromyasthenia Variant?" and "Epidemic Diencephalomyelitis," the latter describing neuropsychiatric, cardiovascular and endocrine disorders.
Sporadic cases resembling benign myalgic encephalomyelitis.
Report on an epidemic of benign myalgic encephalomyelitis.
Medical Centre - report of epidemic Neuromyasthenia and "unidentified symptom complex."
Epidemic Neuromyasthenia reported. "A syndrome or disease?"
An outbreak of "epidemic neuromyasthenia" among nurses a the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Oromond Street.
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.
Reports on Mylagic Encephalomyelits and epidemic neuromyasthenia in this region.
"Epidemic Neuromyasthenia" reported.
[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.
Outbreak of M.E. in a girls' school.
M.E. epidemic reported in a rural medical practice.
Coxsackie B outbreak reported in a general practice.
Sporadic cases of M.E. reported.
The Gunnedah outbreak was linked with pesticides, which were conjectured to be interacting with viruses and other environmental chemicals in a post-viral syndrome. 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.
Outbreak first described and an "unexplained illness," later as M.E. Included here are outbreaks in Dunedin and Hamilton New Zealand.
"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-
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 teacher in at least three high schools, and then large numbers of the community.
"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.
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.
M.E. epidemic involving teachers and students.
M.E. epidemic in a rural community involving children and adults.
In the same area [not far from Truckee, California] an M.E./CFS-like epidemic reputedly occurred in a reservation of American Native people.
Outbreak of chronic fatigue syndrome 'coincident with a heavy contamination of the local unfiltered water supply'.
"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."
Rosedale Hospital reported 11 cases of M.E./CFS among staff.
M.E. epidemic among teachers and students.
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.
Outbreaks by region
- 1934 - Los Angeles, USA
- 1936 - Fond-du-Lac, Wisconsin, USA
- 1945 - University Hospital of Pennsylvania, USA
- 1950 - Louisville, Kentucky, USA
- 1950 - Upper New York State, USA
- 1952 - Lakeland, Florida, USA
- 1953 - Rockville, Maryland, USA
- 1954 - Tallahassee, Florida, USA
- 1954 - Seward, Alaska
- 1956 - Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA
- 1956 - Punta Gorda, Florida, USA
- 1956 - Pittsfield, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA
- 1961-62 - New York State, USA
- 1964-66 - Franklin, Kentucky, USA
- 1965-66 - Galveston County, Texas, USA
- 1969 - State University of New York, USA
- 1970 - Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, USA
- 1975 - Sacramento, California, USA
- 1977 - Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, USA
- 1984 - Incline village, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA
- 1984 - Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
- 1984-85 - Truckee, California, USA
- 1985 - Lyndonville, New York, USA
- 1985 Yerington, Nevada, USA
- 1986 - Placerville, California, USA
- 1988 - Sonora, California, USA
- 1989 - Roseville, California, USA
- 1990 - Elk Grove, California, USA
- 1996 - Mohave Valley region, Arizona, USA
- 1946-47 - Iceland
- 1948-49 - North Coast Towns, Iceland
- 1955-56 - Patreksfordur and Thorshofn, Iceland
- 1937 - Erstfeld, Switzerland
- 1937 - St. Gallen, Switzerland
- 1939 - Degersheim, St. Gallen, Switzerland
- 1961 - Basel, Switzerland
- 1939 - Middlesex, England
- 1952 - London, England
- 1953 - Coventry and Coventry District, England
- 1954 - Liverpool, England
- 1954 - Dalston, Cumbria, England
- 1955 - London, England
- 1955 - Gilfach Goch, Wales
- 1955-56 - North West London, England
- 1956 - Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire, England
- 1956-57 - Coventry, England
- 1958-59 - S.W. London, England
- 1959 - Newcastle upon Tyne, England
- 1959 - N.W. London, England
- 1959 - England
- 1964-66 - N.W. London, England
- 1967-70 - Edinburgh, Scotland
- 1970-71 - London, England
- 1979 - Southampton, England
- 1980-81 - West Kilbridge, Ayrshire, Scotland
- 1980-83 - Helensburgh, Scotland
- 1981-82 - Stirlingshire, Scotland
Australia and New Zealand
- 1949-1953 - Adelaide, Australia
- 1955 - Perth, Australia
- 1957 - Brighton, South Australia
- 1981 - Gunnedah, NSW, Australia
- 1988 - Narrabeen, NSW, Australia
- Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Post Viral Fatigue States: the Saga of the Royal Free Disease by Dr Melvin Ramsay, 1955.
- Reference index of papers published on epidemics of ME 1934-80 (collected by Dr J. Gordon Parish), ME Research UK, 1980.
- The Clinical and Scientific Basis of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (edited by Dr. Byron Hyde), Nightingale Foundation, 1992.
- Parish, J.G. (November 1978), "Early outbreaks of 'epidemic neuromyasthenia'.", Postgraduate Medical Journal, 54 (637): 711-717, PMID 370810
- to be moved
- "M.E.: a mystery illness affecting Australians" The Canberra Times (newspaper) 12 November 1987: 19.
- Video - "More Than Just Poison" Arafura Films, 1986
- "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome", Newsweek, 1990-11-11
- ME/CFS Society of Western Australia - Endemic Outbreaks