Epidemic Meningitis

A disease that might have been epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis is described in the annals of the reign of King Songjong (1469-94). According to these records, in November 1471, an epidemic disease appeared in Hwanghae Province. It died out by

March of the following year, but the unusual nature of the epidemic attracted the attention of the central government. Medical officials were dispatched to the province to dispense medicines and report on the causes and symptoms. According to the official observer, the disease occurred mainly within Hwanghae Province. In comparison to other epidemic diseases, its ability to spread was weak, and thus the number of individuals affected was not very large. The disease had probably occurred previously in the same province as early as 1434. Outbreaks continued into 1458, but the number and dates of outbreaks cannot be ascertained.

The first symptoms of the disease included blurred vision, loss of vision, delirium and babbling, frenzy, and finally prostration and collapse. Other symptoms were difficulty of movement of the whole body, paralysis below the waist, swelling of the lower abdomen, pains, blackening of the teeth, weakness in the extremities, coughing, and gasping. If one member of the family fell ill, the whole family might sicken and die. When all the symptoms are considered, a tentative diagnosis of epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis seems reasonable (Miki 1962).

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