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To the concern of medical professionals already preparing for a potential bird flu pandemic, a mysterious disease first documented 300 years ago is spreading throughout South Texas.
Morgellons disease has not been known to kill and it doesn’t appear to be contagious – it’s the disease’s horrible symptoms that worry doctors.
“These people will have like beads of sweat but it’s black, black and tarry,” Ginger Savely, a nurse practioner in Austin who has treated a majority of Morgellons patients, told the San Antonio Express-News.
Patients infected with the disease get lesions that never heal.
“Sometimes little black specks come out of the lesions and sometimes little fibers,” said Stephanie Bailey, a Morgellons patient.
It’s those different-colored fibers that pop out of the skin that may be the most bizarre symptom of the disease.
Travis Wilson, a Morgellons sufferer for over a year, once called his mother in to see a fiber coming out of a lesion in his chest.
“It looked like a piece of spaghetti was sticking out about a quarter to an eighth of an inch long and it was sticking out of his chest,” Lisa Wilson said. “I tried to pull it as hard as I could out and I could not pull it out.
“He’d have attacks and fibers would come out of his hands and fingers, white, black and sometimes red. Very, very painful,” said Wilson.
More than 100 cases of the disease have been reported in South Texas.
“It really has the makings of a horror movie in every way,” Savely said.
To make matters worse for sufferers, some doctors dismiss the disease as a delusion because the symptoms patients experience are so bizarre.
“Believe me,” said Savely, “if I just randomly saw one of these patients in my office, I would think they were crazy too. But after you’ve heard the story of over 100 (patients) and they’re all ? down to the most minute detail ? saying the exact same thing, that becomes quite impressive.”
The outbreak’s proximity to the Texas-Mexico border comes at a time when the issues of illegal immigration, border security and possible amnesty for over 12 million illegal aliens are being debated in the U.S.
The Wilson’s spent $14,000 last year after insurance coverage on medical treatment for the disease, primarily on antibiotics.
“He was on Tamadone for pain. Viltricide, this was an anti-parasitic. This was to try and protect his skin because of all the lesions and stuff,” said Wilson.
Travis, 23, complained of feeling like bugs were crawling all over him. “You can’t sleep. It’s freaky. So he’d go days without sleep,” she said.
Austin resident Stephanie Bailey, who developed the lesions over four years ago, said she felt the same crawling sensation that Travis Wilson had felt. “The lesions come up, and then these fuzzy things like spores come out,” she said. “You just want to get it out of you.”
She, to this day, has no idea what could have caused her disease, and nothing has worked to rid her of it.
“They (doctors) told me I was just doing this to myself, that I was nuts. So basically I stopped going to doctors because I was afraid they were going to lock me up,” Bailey said.
Pathologists have not been able to find any infection in the fibers pulled from lesions.
“Clearly something is physically happening here,” said Dr. Randy Wymore, a researcher at the Morgellons Research Foundation at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Health Sciences. “These fibers don’t look like common environmental fibers.”
Currently the only treatment that has shown success is an antibiotic. More than half of Morgellons patients have also been diagnosed with Lymes disease, but no other connections have been found.
“It sounds a little like a parasite, like a fungal infection, like a bacterial infection, but it never quite fits all the criteria of any known pathogen,” said Savely, who continues to treat the disease others say isn’t real.
Wilson says her son suffered to such a point she was sure he was suicidal.
“I knew he was going to kill himself, and there was nothing I could do to stop him,” she said.
Travis Wilson committed suicide two weeks ago.