Morgellons: The Non-Existent Epidemic

It spreads like wildfire beneath the skin, the slight prickling sensation of itching. Tiny and innumerable fibres seem to poke through the skin and tiny parasites creep beneath the surface. The urge to pick at the fibres arrives, fingertips reach and simply start to scratch. Later sores appear over the body near where the picking occurred, it feels as though the fibres are causing it.

This peculiar condition is called Morgellons. In the past 11 years 12,000 people claim to have been affected. Yet, according to the consensus among medical professionals, it does not exist.

The first case was in 2001, Mary Leitao’s son had sores around his mouth and complained of feeling ‘bugs’ beneath them. She examined his skin with a toy microscope and found an astonishing array of coloured fibres peppered over his skin. She did some reading and found a reference in a 17th Century text referring to a condition in which people had long dark hairs grow on their backs. From this text she got the word ‘Morgellons.’ She maintained that it was a new condition and set up a foundation to research it.

After 12,000 reported cases a million dollars(USD) was set aside by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) in the United States of America to research it. They followed the symptoms and tracked down those claiming to have morgellons. Sufferers described their compulsion to pick at the fibres, often displaying a strong conviction that they were the products of other creatures beneath or on the skin. Morgellons sufferers were looking for a little information and a confirmation of the conditions existence. The CDC more than scratched the surface, the drilled deep.

The sufferers of morgellons are often driven to extreme behaviours by the constant irritation. Carrying alcoholic hand gel and hand-washing fastidiously and showering four times a day. In one extreme case a woman bathed in bleach, hoping to dissolve the fibres and remove the torturous itch.

Beyond the behaviour is the spread of the condition, when mapping the sufferers one finds that they are spread out arbitrarily, in differing states of health and varying ages. It does not spread like a disease or infection of any kind.

The conclusion of the report was that people claiming to have morgellons had a wide variety of ailments, some had undiagnosed chronic itching, and others had a truly bizarre condition. DOP, or delusions of parasitosis. A psychological condition that could explain the bizarre spread of people claiming to have morgellons.

Moving Away From Madness

DOP is simply when someone believes that they are infected by parasites, often they describing the sensation of parasites creeping, crawling and undulating beneath their skin. This peculiar variant of DOP spread in such a peculiar manner because it was no normal disease but an idea, spread by the internet. This form of mania used to be restricted to small areas, such as dancing plagues in 13th century Europe, but modern methods means modern spread. The idea scratched at their minds until they itched all over. Why did they misdiagnose themselves then?

No one wants to be mad. Humans often put themselves through great suffering to be thought of as unique, individual and even peculiar specimens, yet no one wishes to be seen as mad. Having DOP is thought of as being mad, people refuse to treat their minds like their bodies, so fearful are they of their whole identity being questioned. Instead they discard the entire idea and find a name which means they aren’t mad, morgellons.

The stress of this belief affects their bodies in negative ways, this in turn confirms their incorrect belief and increases the stress once more. Some develop fixations with proving the genuine nature of their condition. They curate vast collections of cutaneous curios for display to disbelievers. Vast galleries of bizarre fibres on their skin and pictures of peculiar pale scars. For those sufferers psychological therapy is needed.For the majority of their worries they can be simply treated with appropriate medication and a comprehensive explanation. Particularly the colourful fibres. These fibres are small but brightly coloured, and on everyone who looks for them. The CDC study found that these fibres were practically all from clothing and furniture, mainly cotton.

One last case remains. The study was comprehensive science which showed how people claiming to have morgellons in the vast amount of cases had other conditions, but it did not discount the rise of an entirely new affliction. Some suffer, uncured with causes unknown, whether quirks of the body or new conditions, it remains to be seen.

For the moment, do not worry about morgellons, those prickling fibres are on you too, but they are also on everyone, coating you as your clothes rub against your stretched skin. As most people were imagining it you don’t need to worry about infection, it is only an idea. If you wish to avoid morgellons, you need do only one simple thing.

Try not to think about it.

[Mostly Odd wishes to apologise for any itching caused by this article. Just do not scratch.]

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