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July 6, 2008 11:15 AM   Subscribe

Are there any famous or not-so-famous epidemics with blindness as an indicative symptom? If so, which? How and/or why?

Also, how could you make the argument that blindness is an epidemic, if schizophrenia were to "cure" blindness, or vice versa? I'm sorry if I should have posted that one separately in the "religion & philosophy" category.
posted by srs to Science & Nature (14 answers total)
 
Trachoma
posted by kelseyq at 11:19 AM on July 6, 2008


Not exactly what you asked, but (if this wasn't already the inspiration for your question), you may be interested in Blindness by José Saramago, an excellent novel about a (fictional) epidemic of blindness. (Now a major motion picture that I'm not holding my breath for.)
posted by rafter at 11:32 AM on July 6, 2008


If you're interested in fictional cases, Jose Saramago wrote a novel, Blindness, about a blindness epidemic. A film based on the novel is coming out in September.
posted by painquale at 11:33 AM on July 6, 2008


(and then Saramago wrote Seeing . Whether those people were "crazy" or extremely aware is up to the reader to decide).
posted by neblina_matinal at 11:57 AM on July 6, 2008


Vitamin A deficiency in some parts of Africa. It kind of pushes the bounds of the question but I really don't understand part of the question. How does schizophrenia cure blindness?
posted by 517 at 12:03 PM on July 6, 2008


River blindness
posted by Quietgal at 12:15 PM on July 6, 2008


the poster's previous question seems relevant to link here, re: schizophrenia & blindness.
posted by twistofrhyme at 1:03 PM on July 6, 2008


It's not an epidemic as such. But occasionally a moonshiner would screw up a batch of white lightning and end up with a lot of methanol in it, and the result would be people going blind.
posted by Class Goat at 1:36 PM on July 6, 2008


There was some work in the early nineties which seemed to show that schizophrenia might be an autoimmune disease. The findings mainly had to do with age of onset, gender scewing and MHC concordance--all findings common to autoimmune disease like lupus and ankylosing spondylitis. You could easily make an argument that someone with traits to predispose schizophrenia would be resistant to some organism which causes blindness or vice versa. This would be fiction, but science-based fiction.
posted by OlderThanTOS at 1:58 PM on July 6, 2008


Not quite an "epidemic" but there's also snow blindness, which is only temporary, caused by hikers in the snow who stay out in the bright sunshine too long and don't wear their sunglasses.
posted by Melismata at 3:02 PM on July 6, 2008


Meteor showers? ;)
posted by hattifattener at 7:19 PM on July 6, 2008


These were some interesting answers. I'm not looking for ideas for fiction per se, but fiction-inspired thought experiments help open new threads of research and I'm tangentially interested in blindness lately.

I wonder whether or not any particular geographic populations are congenitally predisposed to blindness. Maybe it developed to protect against certain infectius diseases, like the malaria/sicle cell anemia relationship. I'm sorry for not stating that in the original question. I wanted to leave it a pretty open-ended inquiry. Thanks again for all of the ideas.
posted by srs at 8:43 PM on July 6, 2008


The Himalayan Cataract Project might interest you.
posted by dsword at 10:48 AM on July 7, 2008


I wonder whether or not any particular geographic populations are congenitally predisposed to blindness.

Well, some areas with small original founder populations are predisposed to color blindness.
posted by Asparagirl at 3:40 PM on July 7, 2008


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