Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-59b7f5684b-fmrbl Total loading time: 0.39 Render date: 2022-10-04T11:50:05.208Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

3 - Configuring Epidemic Encephalitis as a National and International Neurological Concern

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 May 2021

Get access

Summary

Novelty and Scale

The history of epidemic encephalitis offers a profound challenge to any assumption that, in the early twentieth century, pathologies of the nervous system were somehow the exclusive province of a systematic body of specialized knowledge known as “neurology.” Admittedly, the condition only began to receive wide recognition once it had been dubbed “encephalitis lethargica,” a term which certainly sounds sufficiently neurological, as it describes a site (the encephalon, the brain), a pathological state (-itis, an affliction or inflammation), and a primary symptom (a profound lethargy). Its neurological pedigree might also be inferred from the fact that it was a neuroanatomist, Constantin von Economo (1876–1931), who, based upon his bedside and postmortem observations in a Viennese neuropsychiatric clinic, gave the condition its name in 1917. Economo's description of feverish and sleepy patients with unusual ocular palsies quickly spread. By the end of the following year, dozens of European and American medical practitioners, many of them claiming some expertise in nervous pathologies, had taken up Economo's term to describe this strange new disease. But the novelty, the epidemic character, and the protean nature of encephalitis lethargica quickly served to breach the boundaries of neurological expertise. Commentators debated whether the disease was truly new or whether it had simply been overlooked in the past. But all agreed its complex symptomatology made it extremely difficult to diagnose. In the absence of clear, standardized neurological or immunological signs (as could be found in cases of syphilis or meningitis), the only way to better understand the disease was to gather together more cases. But encephalitis lethargica's epidemiological profile was occult, at best. The causal organism was unknown, and it was unusual to find even two fresh cases in a single institution (never mind a household). Extending disease surveillance (then described as medical or epidemic “intelligence”) was therefore a priority. And the only way to accomplish that was to move beyond the little world of the neurologists (to adapt a phrase from Ludwik Fleck) and enroll a wider range of other practitioners and publics.

Type
Chapter
Information
The History of the Brain and Mind Sciences
Technique, Technology, Therapy
, pp. 77 - 106
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2017

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×