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Article
January 21, 1974

The "Mystery" Illness

JAMA. 1974;227(3):324. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230160052015
Abstract

To the Editor.—  With reference to the article " 'Medical Sleuth' Tries to Identify Mystery Illness in School Children" (226:11, 1973), I should like to make the following remark.Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738) was consulted about an identical epidemic in an orphanage at the Dutch town Haarlem. His biographer, Prof G. A. Lindeboom, wrote:The consultation that Boerhaave once gave in an orphanage at Haarlem, where the doctors were not able to suppress an outbreak of hysterical fits, is well known. The condition was intolerable: once one child had developed fits, others—boys and girls—also showed them. Then Boerhaave took drastic measures and made his full authority felt. He had fires lit all over the house, with branding irons hanging next to each. Then he gathered the orphans together, and in a serious mood he threatened that the first who developed a fit would be branded to the bone. This threat ended the

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