A five-part series
Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved
All items below come directly from reporting by Hillary Johnson for Rolling Stone magazine (1986) and for her book, “Osler’s Web: Inside the Labyrinth of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Epidemic,” Crown Publishing Group (1996)
Number of years since Anthony Komaroff, M.D. first began to observe an M.E.-like disease in patients at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School’s teaching hospital in Boston, MA. "It all began with that virus," most told him.
Number of years since Richard DuBois, Atlanta infectious disease specialist, made a well-attended presentation to staff at the Centers for Disease Control in which he proposed that the new-mono-like syndrome, which appeared to be spreading exponentially, might be a second epidemic of immune dysfunction arising concurrently with AIDS:
Number of years since the Southern Medical Journal published a research article describing what nine authors—infectious disease specialists--believed might be a new disease given the surge of children and adults they were seeing in their practices. They called the malady “chronic mononucleosis syndrome” because patients had high levels of antibodies to Epstein-Barr virus but they weren't completely satisfied with the name:
Number of years since then-32-year-old Carol Jessop, M.D., director of the Lyon-Martin Health Center, a community health clinic for women in San Francisco, saw her first patient she described as having "symptoms you don't hear every day, like, 'I wake up feeling like I've been beaten with a baseball bat all night.'"
Number of years before Carol Jessop’s case load of female patients with the new (to her) disease ballooned from zero to 136:
Less than 2
Number of years since Daniel Peterson, M.D., saw his first patient with the disease, a middle-aged woman, in Incline Village, NV.
Number of years before cases in Incline Village expanded from zero to 160. This resulted in a regional attack rate estimated to be one out of every 188 people—based on a conservative assumption that two local doctors were seeing only half the people who had the disease. At the time, the AIDS attack rate was one out of every 1,920 people).
Less than two
Number of years since a group of childhood playmates in tiny Lyndonville, NY fell ill after a sledding party with a disease from which several have yet to recover.
Number of years until two percent of the town of Lyndonville—adults, children and entire families—were discovered to be suffering from the same incurable malady.
Less than two
Number of years since Herb Tanney, Los Angeles internal medicine specialist, reported an epidemic of the most confounding disease Tanney had encountered in 30 years to epidemiologist Shirley Fanin of the L.A. County Health Department . More than 50 adult cases in his practice—including movie director Blake Edwards--were suffering from the disease.
Number of years until Herb Tanney’s caseload of "confounding" patients doubled from fifty to one-hundred:
Number of years since Sayed Zaki Salahuddin, a scientist in Robert Gallo’s Laboratory of Tumor Cell Biology at the National Institutes of Health, discovered a new highly neurotropic herpes virus, HHV6, in the lymphocytes of an HIV-infected patient suffering from AIDS. Salahuddin and colleagues suspected it had been mistaken for Epstein-Barr virus for decades.
Number of years since Incline Village, NV internist Paul Cheney ordered an MRI brain scan on a 12-year-old girl suffering from a range of serious neurological signs. (Performed at the University of California S.F. medical center, the child’s left temporal lobe was pock-marked with white, pencil point- sized perforations, something rarely seen in anyone younger than 70.) It was likely the first MRI of the brain ever performed on an M.E. patient:
Number of years since Dr. Daniel Peterson wrote to Gary Holmes of the Centers for Disease Control epidemic intelligence service to let him know that he and his partner Paul Cheney were seeing a large influx of new patients from around the country, many with severe abnormalities of the immune systems. (Holmes had spent several days in Incline Village, NV. officially investigating a major outbreak of disease though he examined fewer than ten patients.) Peterson’s letter was answered by Jon Kaplan, Gary Holmes’ senior partner, who wrote in an addendum, “I wish I were out there skiing."
Number of years since Hillary Johnson called Betty Agee, head of Los Angeles County’s Acute Communicable Disease Control Unit, who told her, “I’ve had doctors call to say we really should be studying this, but we’re a small unit and this is a huge county. It’s better undertaken by the Centers for Disease Control.” Agee also said twenty percent of the calls she received were from doctors who were concerned about the spread of the disease and eighty percent were from patients, all of them women. “Before it hit, many say they were running four and five miles a day,” Agee added. “Now, they can’t walk to the corner.”
Number of years since Berkeley neuropsychologist Sheila Bastien began examining her first patients, referred by Nevada doctors Paul Cheney and Dan Peterson. (After performing a standardized eight-hour battery of intelligence tests on dozens of people, Bastien reported the cohort had a "signature" of abnormalities distinct from anything she had seen before.) Bastien said most were more impaired than people with brain tumors, concussions and chemical injuries:
Number of years since Anthony Komaroff asked a young immunologist named Michael Caligiuri, an expert in the recently discovered white cells called Natural Killer cells, to investigate both the number of NK Cells as well as the cell-killing ability in patients and controls.
Number of years since conservative columnist Ben Stein wrote a column in the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner titled, "The Spread of 'Non-Stop Flu' is Cause for Concern." "Is everyone in Los Angeles sick? Can anyone help?" Stein wrote. "Isn't this worthy of national attention?"
Number of years since scientists in the Gallo lab discovered that 75 percent of M.E. patients they tested from Nevada were highly positive for the newly discovered sixth human herpes virus, in contrast to two percent of the healthy population.
Number of years since Michael Caligiuri published his paper, "Phenotypic and Functional Deficiency of Natural Killer Cells in Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" in the Journal of Immunology:
Number of years before Los Angeles internist Herb Tanney's case load of M.E. patients had tripled to 150 people, none of whom knew one another other:
Less than two