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encephalitis lethargica


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A viral epidemic encephalitis marked by apathy, paralysis of the extrinsic eye muscle, and extreme muscular weakness. It occurred in various parts of the world between 1915 and 1926.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun an encephalitis that was epidemic between 1915 and 1926; symptoms include paralysis of the extrinsic eye muscle and extreme muscular weakness


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[New Latin encephalītis lēthargica : encephalītis, encephalitis + Latin lēthargica, feminine of lēthargicus, sleepy.]


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  • "Throughout the world similar phenomena were noted. In the next few years a disease known as 'encephalitis lethargica' spread through much of the West. Although no pathogen was ever identified and the disease itself has since disappeared—indeed, there is no incontrovertible evidence that the disease, in a clearly definable scientific sense, ever existed—physicians at the time did believe in the disease, and a consensus considered it a result of influenza."

    —John M. Barry, The Great Influenza (NY: Penguin Books, 2004), 392

    February 17, 2009