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Dalston (Cumbria) outbreak of ME - February and March 1955

Discussion in 'General ME/CFS Discussion' started by charles shepherd, Mar 20, 2017.

  1. charles shepherd

    charles shepherd Senior Member

    Dalston (Cumbria) outbreak of ME

    Sarah Staples, from the MEA, has just been on BBC Radio Cumbria to talk about the outbreak of ME that affected children and adolescents in the village of Dalston, Cumbria back in February and March 1955

    A description of the outbreak can be found in Dr Melvin Ramsay's book on the history of ME (available from the MEA)

    Dr A L Wallace, the local GP, also wrote up the cases in some detail in the form of a postgraduate degree thesis that was submitted to the University of Edinburgh

    As part of the MEA contribution to ME Awareness Week this year we will be examining at the history of ME, and what can be learnt from it

    We would like to hear from anyone in the Dalston area who was involved in this particular outbreak - which has received very little publicity in the following years

    Abstract of the thesis that was prepared by Dr Wallace:

    In the first half of 1955 an unusual infective disease appeared in my practice, which is centred on Dalston, a village which lies 41/2 miles south-west of Carlisle, in the valley of the River Caldew.

    The condition became prevalent in February and March and affected a considerable number of my patients; there were no fatalities but the disease was the cause of much disability and loss of working time.

    The disease appeared to be infectious, and the illness was characterised by acute myalgia, disturbances of the reticulo endothelial system and central nervous system, and psychogenic sequelae which, in some instances, persisted for many months.

    Relapses, with recrudescences of symptoms, occurred in a proportion of those infected; in some cases, several relapses occurred over a period of months, symptoms being minimal or absent between the recurrences.

    The clinical picture that emerged was one with which I was not familiar.

    At an early stage in the epidemic I considered the condition to be most like glandular fever, and therefore sent serum samples and blood films to the Pathological Laboratory of the Cumberland Infirmary for Paul Burnell screening and examination of the films for the picture seen in glandular fever.

    Link to University of Edinburgh thesis:

    Full thesis pdf:

    Dr Charles Shepherd
    Hon Medical Adviser, MEA

    20 March 2017

    Melvin Ramsay's book:

    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017
    halcyon, rosie26, mango and 11 others like this.
  2. Hutan

    Hutan Senior Member

    New Zealand
    These historical accounts are very interesting.

    You have a typo there:

    In the original, it is 'some cases' rather than 'sane cases' - very much preferable to the inference that there were insane cases as well as sane cases. You might want to fix that if you have posted the same sentence elsewhere before Chinese whispers has this confirming the BPS theory...

    The reference to psychogenic sequelae though is as per the original. I'm not sure if the author meant it to have the same meaning as we would give it today. I've just read the first page or so - perhaps it is made clearer later in the report.

    ETA: Yes, later in the report it becomes clear that 'psychological' would be a better word. He is referring to symptoms such as depression, anxiety and emotional lability.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017
    halcyon and Cheesus like this.
  3. charles shepherd

    charles shepherd Senior Member

    Thanks for spotting this

    The typo was on the abstract that I copied straight into my item

    I have just asked Tony at the MEA to correct this before it goes on the MEA website

    I have also corrected the PR version

    daisybell and Hutan like this.

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