Navigation Links
Little House books' Mary Ingalls probably did not go blind from scarlet fever, U-M study says
Date:2/4/2013

Ann Arbor, Mich. In the beloved American stories of the Little House on the Prairie, author Laura Ingalls Wilder writes emotionally about how scarlet fever robs her big sister Mary of her sight.

But in a new study published today in the journal Pediatrics, University of Michigan researchers found it is likely scarlet fever had nothing to do with Mary's blindness.

Senior author Beth A. Tarini, M.D., and her co-authors used evidence from newspaper reports, Laura Ingalls' memories and school registries to conclude Mary's blindness was probably caused by viral meningoencephalitis.

"Since I was in medical school, I had wondered about whether scarlet fever could cause blindness because I always remembered Mary's blindness from reading the Little House stories and knew that scarlet fever was once a deadly disease," says Tarini, an assistant professor of pediatrics in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

"I would ask other doctors, but no one could give me a definitive answer, so I started researching it."

Mary Ingalls went blind in 1879 at age 14. Tarini and her co-authors found evidence in Laura Ingalls Wilder's memoirs and letters that described Mary's illness as "spinal sickness" with symptoms suggestive of a stroke.

The study quotes a local newspaper item that reports that Miss Mary Ingalls was confined to her bed and "it was feared that hemorrhage of the brain had set in (sic) one side of her face became partially paralyzed."

"Meningoencephalitis could explain Mary's symptoms, including the inflammation of the facial nerve that left the side of her face temporarily paralyzed," Tarini says, "and it could also lead to inflammation of the optic nerve that would result in a slow and progressive loss of sight."

It's not surprising that scarlet fever was labeled the culprit in the books instead, Tarini says. Between 1840 and 1883, scarlet fever was one of the most common infectious causes of death among children in the United States.

"Laura's memoirs were transformed into the Little House novels. Perhaps to make the story more understandable to children, the editors may have revised her writings to identify scarlet fever as Mary's illness because it was so familiar to people and so many knew how frightening a scarlet fever diagnosis was," says Sarah S. Allexan, B.A., lead author of the paper and a medical student at the University of Colorado.

For reasons that remain unclear, scarlet fever case fatality rates fell dramatically in the early 20th century, well before antibiotic treatment.

But even now, a scarlet fever diagnosis can strike fear into the heart of parents Tarini sees in her pediatric practice.

"Familiar literary references like these are powerful especially when there is some historical truth to them." Tarini says. "This research reminds us that our patients may harbor misconceptions about a diagnosis and that we, as physicians, need to be aware of the power of the words we use because in the end, illness is seen through the eyes of the patient."


'/>"/>

Contact: Mary F. Masson
mfmasson@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. In children born with severe heart defect, surgical management has little effect on neuro outcomes
2. U.S. Spends Too Little on Public Health Initiatives: Report
3. Botox Offers Little Relief for Migraine, Study Finds
4. A Little More Education, a Little Longer Life?
5. OSHAs Safety Tests Protect Workers at Little Cost: Study
6. Too much vitamin D can be as unhealthy as too little
7. New federal disclosure law may have little impact on drugs prescribed
8. Kids Born Even a Little Early Have Lower School Scores: Study
9. Milk Thistle of Little Help Against Hepatitis C: Study
10. Little evidence supports autism treatment options in adolescents
11. Little Evidence on Value of Treatments for Autism: Report
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/12/2016)... ... February 12, 2016 , ... A lot has been reported about ... president has access to health and wellness resources most Americans could ever dream of ... individual has a schedule as frenetic as the U.S. President. , In honor ...
(Date:2/12/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... February 12, 2016 , ... Basketball is ... and integral part of the Peety PoppersTM series, sign language translation is featured in ... of health and wellness in Peety PoppersTM lessons has a sign language translator to ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... ... “ HEALING MIND : Five Steps to Ultimate Healing, Four Rooms ... teaches readers how to become their own therapist. Providing a useful step-by-step process for ... offers an understanding of how to heal one’s inner child using four archetypes of ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... , ... February 11, 2016 , ... ... performing a wide range of cosmetic procedures. Along with performing procedures, the magazine ... and results of many cosmetic procedures. One of the most common procedures he ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... February 11, 2016 , ... The Chartis Group, ... top five firms in the “2015/2016 Best in KLAS: Software and Services” report ... is a research and insights firm on a global mission to improve healthcare ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:2/11/2016)... Calif., Feb. 11, 2016 PRO-DEX, INC. (NasdaqCM: PDEX) ... ended December 31, 2015. The Company also filed its Quarterly ... year 2016 with the Securities and Exchange Commission today. ... 31, 2015 --> --> ... increased $2.6 million, or 95%, to $5.4 million from $2.8 ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... DUNKIRK, N.Y. , Feb. 11, 2016  Governor ... Athenex that will create 1,400 jobs throughout ... by a partnership with the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, includes ... the Conventus Building in Buffalo , ... square foot manufacturing facility in Dunkirk ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... , Feb. 11, 2016  MiMedx Group, Inc. ... utilizing human amniotic membrane and other birth tissues, human ... to develop and market advanced products and therapies, announced ... Markets, 2016 Global Healthcare Conference in New ... and CEO, Michael J. Senken , Chief Financial ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: