North Lake Tahoe Bonanza – March 7, 1986


Ninety attend panel on mystery fatigue illness: Harvard doctors field questions

By Teresa Willis Staff Writer


picture: STILL MYSTIFIED: Dr Anthony Komaroff explained as clearly and briefly as possible what he and two other Harvard doctors had discovered about the mysterious Tahoe malady while Incline doctor Paul Cheney looks on. The doctors conducted a panel discussion attended by 90 persons Thursday night at Sierra Nevada College.


Few new clues were revealed Thursday night about the Tahoe’s mystery malady during a panel discussion that drew 90 people to the Sierra Nevada College auditorium.

Doctors Paul Cheney and Anthony Komaroff spoke to the audience giving a synopsis of the disease and the results of the week long studies conducted by three doctors from Harvard University.

Komaroff, along with two colleagues, Dr Dedra Buchwald and Dr Nick Fiebach, spent the last week in Incline Village poring  over patient’s files in an attempt to locate correlating factors.

The doctors said that one noticeable characteristic of the fatigue affliction that resembles mononucleosis is that it seems to occur within certain groups of people.

Approximately 150 cases of the illness were reported in 1985 and while cluster groups have been identified many individualcases were also reported where there was no known contact with another infected individual.

In October epidemiologists from the federal Center for Disease Control in Atlanta came to Incline to study the outbreak, which struck mostly heterosexual adults, many of whom worked in public schools. The disease centers report did not name a culprit virus.

The clusters have been detected in two groups of teachers, one group from North Tahoe High School and the other from Truckee High School, a local girls basketball team and a group of Hyatt casino employees.

Cheney said the people within these clusters affected within these clusters contracted the disease at least a year ago and that no new clusters have been found.

For whatever reason Incline High School has been relatively unaffected by the illness. There have been nominal complaints from the teachers there.

Cheney said he thinks part of the reason why Incline High School has not been affected as much as the other schools is because of its circulating air system, large windows and overall good ventilation and airiness as compared to internal circulation.

The condition of the buildings with poor ventilation is referred to by the doctors as “the sick building syndrome.”

Although no one can confirm why some contract the Epstein-Barr virus and others do not, the doctors agree on some points.

First, they believe it is not really a new disease but one which has been reactivated after lying dormant for years.

Both believe that 90 percent of all people come in contact with the disease at some point of their lives, usually when they are young, under 10 years of age.

When the virus is first contracted it may or may not affect a person. The effects could show up as acute mono, a cold, or remain latent for the duration.

The biggest question for the doctors is what it is that reactivates the disease.