Date: February 10, 2010
Abstract: Hundreds of people in China believe they might have a new disease with HIV-like symptoms, but doctors suggest their illness could be the result of a mental rather than a physical condition.
The Chinese authorities have been accused of covering up respiratory illnesses like Sars in the past.
This time doctors are blaming a breakdown in trust between the medical profession and patients, who fear they are being lied to when their diagnostic tests come back negative.
One man convinced he has the condition insisted on meeting in an empty motel room. He tries to avoid public places to reduce the chances of transmission.
He wears a face mask - he suspects his virus is spread by close contact, through sweat or saliva. He thinks he caught it after he had sex with a female prostitute.
But he is not HIV positive - seven HIV tests have come back negative.
"I've been to many hospitals, I've had many tests. None of these has proved I'm ill," he explains.
"They've examined my organs, tested me for sexual diseases. I'm unwell, but the doctors can't explain why."
There are dozens of Chinese internet chat rooms filled with people who believe they have the same mystery illness.
"I joined the chat room because I was sure I had been infected with this virus," said another patient, who refused to meet face-to-face because, he said, he did not want to pass it to us.
He started to feel ill several months ago, also after a visit to a prostitute, where he says he took precautions to avoid catching HIV.
"Twenty-four hours later I had a strong desire to vomit. I had headaches, I was dizzy, I could feel my internal organs were swelling up. I was in intense pain. This lasted months."
He thought he was HIV positive but was tested several times and there was no sign of HIV antibodies.
The man is unhappy with the response from the medical establishment in China and has tried to bring his illness to the attention of the World Health Organization (WHO) and researchers overseas, but with little success.
"Most of the doctors didn't have the patience to listen to my story," he complains, adding that he is sure the virus is spreading throughout the country.
Both men are certain they are ill, but at the moment doctors do not think they are dealing with an unknown virus.
They suspect extreme guilt or anxiety about an act the men are ashamed of - sex with a prostitute - is affecting their immune systems, making them feel ill.
Scientists at the Pasteur Institute in Shanghai started getting letters from the patients in August.
In early December, they began a study of five patients. So far they have ruled out HIV. The work is still continuing.
Last month, China's Centre for Disease Control tested a larger group of 60 patients. They too ruled out any connection with HIV.
Dr Cai Weiping is a senior Chinese HIV researcher based at the People's Number 8 hospital in the southern province of Guangdong.
He is concerned that growing numbers of patients with what he describes as "HIV phobia" are using up scarce resources.
"They come to have tests again and again, wasting money.
"A real HIV sufferer may take 15 minutes to deal with. A patient with the phobia can take at least an hour, or as much as half a day of arguing before they go away."
Some of the patients claim they have infected family members, friends or colleagues. Dr Cai is doubtful.
"What their relatives tell us about their own symptoms doesn't match what we have heard from the patients."
He believes the problem is psychological rather than physical.
"They think we are concealing an epidemic," he explains.
"In the past we were secretive about the spread of diseases. People didn't believe the numbers of infections we announced.
"Today that's impossible because China is now making much more effort to find patients who have HIV or other diseases."
Although incidences of "HIV phobia" have been reported in other countries, the doctor believes conditions unique to China have produced a larger number of cases here.
Huge changes in the country's medical system in recent years have not worked well, a fact the government acknowledges.
They have left many patients suspicious of the motivations of the medical profession.
"Patients think doctors just see them as machines to make money out of, instead of being driven by a desire to cure them or to save life," says Dr Cai.
The internet has allowed large numbers of people who are frightened but have little expertise to share their fears and in the process heighten them.
But even if the doctor is right and the young man in the motel room is suffering simply from delusion, it is severe enough to leave him trapped behind his mask.
"I feel that I will die soon," he says.
"I haven't been home for a month because I don't want to infect my family. My doctors don't understand me. They say it's caused by fear, but my symptoms are real."
He is so scared he might spread what is wrong with him to others, he has started to withdraw from society.
Physical or mental, the effect of this condition is devastating for him (BBC, 2010).
Date: August 23, 2010
Source: NBC 4 News
Abstract: A doctor sums up the illness that hit 19 members of a northwest Oregon high school football team as "very weird." They all suffered muscle damage after a preseason camp.
Three of the McMinnville High School players also were diagnosed with a rare soft-tissue condition called "compartment syndrome," which caused soreness and swelling in their triceps.
They underwent surgery to relieve the pressure.
The 19 players all had elevated levels of the enzyme creatine kinase, or CK, which is released by muscles when they're injured, said Dr. Craig Winkler of Willamette Valley Medical Center in McMinnville.
High CK levels can lead to kidney failure if not properly treated.
"To have an epidemic like this is very weird," Winkler said.
Officials said the cause was still a mystery, but high CK levels can result from vigorous exercise or the use of certain medications or food supplements.
Five of the athletes were treated in the emergency room and sent home.
The other 11 were admitted to the hospital and given intravenous fluids to maintain adequate hydration and prevent kidney failure, he said.
Ten boys remained hospitalized Sunday, but they were in good condition and were expected to be released Monday, said Rosemari Davis, Willamette Valley Medical Center's chief executive officer.
Practices for all fall sports start Monday.
Before their symptoms started this past week, the players were at an immersion camp organized by first-year coach Jeff Kearin.
Winkler said the players worked out last Sunday at the high school's wrestling room, where temperatures reached 115 degrees.
He said the high temperature and dehydration may have played a role.
He also said officials will look at water sources and what the kids had to drink, including power mixes.
Winkler said blood test results expected Tuesday could show whether the athletes ingested creatine, which is found in legal high-powered protein supplements.
He added officials are not testing for steroids because it would be unlikely for that many students to have access, and "creatine makes way more sense."
Two players said Sunday that supplements were not a factor.
Fullback and linebacker Jacob Montgomery, one of the 10 still hospitalized, said he first experienced a tightness in his triceps and forearms Tuesday.
"They swelled to the verge of popping," the 17-year-old senior said in a telephone interview. "I thought it was just swelling from an intense workout."
Montgomery said he went to get checked out Wednesday after learning another player was taken to the hospital.
He and fellow senior Josh Nice said neither they nor any of the other players have taken any supplements or performance enhancers.
"They don't know what's behind this whole thing," said Nice, a wide receiver hospitalized since Friday.
He added he hopes to return to practice as soon as possible.
Winkler said the hospital and school began screening players for CK after the first few were brought to the hospital early last week.
The normal range for CK is 35 to 232 units per liter, but some students showed levels as high as 42,000, putting them at risk of kidney injury, Winkler said. Those with levels in the 3,000 range were treated in the hospital's emergency room and released, while those with levels above 10,000 were admitted.
Superintendent Maryalice Russell told The Oregonian newspaper she doesn't believe Kearin's workout was excessive.
She also said she has no evidence steroids or supplements were involved.
"I don't have any information at this time that would indicate that's the case," she said. "I'm continuing to look at additional information as it may come my way."
A home phone listing for Kearin could not be found.
But one of his former Cal State Northridge colleagues told The Oregonian that
Kearin is "very conscientious about the high school development and the kids."
"His personality is not a big, hard-nosed, lineman's mentality, or a weight-room-mentality guy," Los Angeles Valley College coach Jim Fenwick said.
Tom Welter, Oregon School Activities Association executive director, said the organization's medical committee will investigate and make recommendations to the executive board after its next meeting in September.
The OSAA oversees school sports in the state.
"It's a really bizarre situation," said Nice's mother, Margaret Nice, whose son Daniel
also remains hospitalized. "But we're all trying to hang in here and
hope and pray that they can come up with the answer to what caused
this" (NBC 4 News, 2010).
Date: December 7, 2010
Abstract: Tests have so far failed to identify an illness that has killed at least 38 people in northern Uganda, officials say.
The Ugandan Ministry of Health said the preliminary tests had ruled out ebola, typhoid and several other diseases.
It said some test results suggested it might be plague, but that further tests were being carried out.
Patients complain of a severe headache and dizziness, which eventually give way to diarrhoea and vomiting.
The ministry said that a full recovery was possible if people sought medical help in the illness's early stages.
It said the results suggesting it was plague were not consistent with findings by medical workers on the ground.
It advised people not to eat meat from sick domesticated and wild animals and to take precautions such as washing hands regularly.
The illness was first reported on 10 November and more than 90 people have been treated for it.
The ministry said it lasted for between two and 10 days, and that the vomit and diarrhoea contained blood.
The tests were carried out in a total of four Ugandan and foreign laboratories.
A BBC correspondent in Uganda, Joshua Mmali, says additional
information about the illness has been difficult to obtain, with
officials refusing to comment further (BBC, 2010).