Random (but not really)

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Parallels in Reading:Encephalitis Lethargica

I have read Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books more times than I can count, yet I feel like I discover something every re-read.

Because there is something timeless about the stories, I tend to forget they are, in fact, set in a specific place and time. In this case, 1930, between the two world wars.

‘Is he really ill?’ ‘There’s nothing radically wrong with him. You know, of course, that he’s had Encephalitis Lethargica, sleepy sickness, as it’s commonly called?’

Christie, Agatha. Miss Marple Bundle: The Murder at the Vicarage, The Body in the Library, and The Moving Finger (eBook Bundle) (Kindle Locations 1593-1594). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

This popped out at my because (for obvious reasons) I’ve been reading about the 1918 flu, and came across encephalitis lethargica as part of that story.

a new brain disease that appeared in Europe and North America between 1916 and 1926. The disease, a kind of sleeping sickness known as encephalitis lethargica, killed an estimated five million people before it abruptly disappeared.

other medical scientists in years since have argued that the sleeping sickness was a peculiar result of the 1918 flu. In 1982, R. T. Ravenholt and William H. Foege, two scientists at the Centers for Disease Control, made this case based on epidemiological data from Seattle, Washington, and the Samoa Islands.

Kolata, Gina. Flu (p. 292). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.

Now, there is no definitive evidence for this, but as I said, it jumped out at me, and reminded me that those book was written little more than a decade after The Great War, and World War II was still on the horizon.

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