- A mysterious skin disease is currently
spreading across America, and doctors are searching for answers on how
to stop the epidemic.
- The disease, called Morgellons Disease,
is a parasite-like infection that literally makes the infected person's
skin crawl. The disease has already been found in thousands of patients
in Florida , Texas and California.
- "I would lay in the bed and it felt
like an army of ants just crawling over the bed, all over my body,"
says one Morgellons Disease sufferer.
- "It never goes away," says
another. "It doesn't die, it doesn't leave."
- What sounds like a science fiction movie
is actually real life for the unlucky people who have contracted the disease
which leaves painful sores all over the body. The sores ooze blue fibers,
white threads and little black specks of sand-like material.
- The worst part, patients say, is the
creepy and constant sensation of bugs crawling under their skin.
- Also discouraging, is the patient's treatment
by doctors, who have little knowledge about the disease, and in specific
cases have lacked compassion for the sufferers.
- "I was so humiliated from the three
doctors that I went to, that I just refused to go back," said on patient.
- Becky Bailey moved out of her Austin,
Texas home and into a trailer hoping to escape the bugs that torment her.
- "We ripped out our carpet and burned
our carpet and furniture and move out into our R-V and they were still
- Without medical help, suffering families
researched their symptoms on their own by way of the internet. Finally,
they were able to put a name to their pain Morgellons.
- The sickly skin disease has actually
been around for centuries. In 1935, an English physician wrote a paper
about Morgellons including excerpts from medical journals from the 1600's,
describing the disease.
- Unfortunately, not much was known then
about Morgellons -- and not much has been learned in the more than 400
- What is known, is that many of people
who may have it, suffer from these symptoms: constant itching/crawling
sensation, chronic fatigue, brain fog or attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, joint swelling or hair loss
- What you should do if you have these
symptoms, is as puzzling as the disease itself.
- One woman in Pittsburgh, PA made it her
mission to find out what causes and what will cure this bizarre disease.
- Mary Leitao is a biologist and the creator
the Morgellons Research Foundation in Pittsburgh.
- Her goal is to get State Health Agencies
and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to study this disease.
- "It's inhumane that these people
have been allowed to go home and have been forced to research this day
in and day out for years on their own," says Leitao.
- Leitao's motivations come from her 6
year old boy Drew. Four years ago, he began to feel the itch.
- "He started describing bugs. He
said, mommy, bugs, and he would scratch."
- Then came the sores that shed the fibers.
Mary took drew to the doctor and the doctor said it was nothing to worry
- "I was going to find an answer,
or I was going to have to take my life, that's all there was too it."
- Doctors don't know what causes the disease,
who is at risk and exactly how many people may be suffering. The Morgellon
Foundation says they have about 12 hundred people registered on their site.
Those are only people who have a computer and happened to find them online.
- In Jacksonville , more than a dozen cases
have been found.
- For Anne Dill, standing in her backyard,
looking over the lake is physically and emotionally painful.
- This silence and solitude serves as a
constant reminder of what her family is facing.
- "We're going to lose everything,
our house, our dreams," says Dill.
- Five years ago, the dills bought their
dream home in Lake City. They spent most of their free time at their lake
with friends, and thought life was pretty close to perfect.
- Then, three years ago, Anne, her husband
and their four children all got very sick at the very same time.
- They think they have Morgellons, even
though they have no idea how they would have contracted it.
- Morgellons is an unusual parasite-like
skin disease, which produces irritating sores all over the body.
- These sores ooze blue fibers, white threads
and little black specks of sand-like material.
- The Dills say they're also plagued with
a constant, creepy crawling feeling of bugs under their skin.
- However, the most agonizing symptom is
the chronic fatigue. The Dills are so tired and so weak, they spend nearly
all of their time, at home.
- The father, Tom Dill is the sickest.
Along with the Morgellons, he's developed signs of Lou Gehrig's disease.
It's a neurological disorder that robbed him of his muscle control. He's
now bound to a wheelchair and has trouble speaking. Tom doesn't know if
his two conditions are related. That has him worried about his children.
- "I don't want to believe that what
happened to me, happened to them."
- But answers are hard to come by. In fact,
doctors tell them the "bugs" they feel and sores they see, are
only in their minds. In medical terms, they are delusional parasitosis.
- "I don't know how a doctor couldn't
see that, it's ridiculous, I can see it, I know there's something there,
I'm like a freshman in high school and I know that there's something wrong."
- Doctor Hardesh Garg is an internal medicine
specialist in Jacksonville. He isn't surprised by the reaction the dills
have been getting from doctors.
- "A lot of times, not all of us,
who feel like, if it doesn't exist in my medical book, it really doesn't
exist and it must be a figment of your imagination," says Garg.
- Doctor Garg has never seen a patient
with Morgellons. However, he says this skin condition needs to be studied.
- "Until we know what's causing it,
can't say if it's infectious or not or how dangerous it is."
- No doctors on the First Coast or Florida
could be found who know anything about Morgellons. However, not all hope
is lost. One medical professional in Austin, Texas may have found a clue
to the Morgellon's mystery.
- Ginger Savely is a nurse practitioner
who specializes in treating the tick borne Lyme disease. She also has first
hand experience with the mystery disease.
- "Right now I think I have about
twenty eight Morgellons patients," says Savely.
- According to Savely, the anti-biotics
she gives to patients with Lyme are also working on some Morgellon's patients.
- But this treatment is also unproven,
and since doctors don't know if it's contagious, the Dills say their home
is now their prison.
- So, the Dills spend a lot of quality
time together. Five year old Hanna has been one of the Dill's secrets to
survival, as her love for singing songs keeps the family entertained.
- Recently researchers have been uncovered
who have just published a study on an unknown skin disease with the exact
- It is promising research that points
to a critter that could be lurking in your home, and research the Dills
may feel that every family should look into.
- Since the CBS47 investigation began digging
into the Morgellons mystery, dozens of people on the First Coast have been
in contact, desperately looking for help.
- One of these people is a nurse who lives
in Saint John's Country. Her story is a striking example of how most patients
with this bizarre skin disease are shut out by their doctors.
- At the end of another exhausting day
for Jane Waldoch, "I go to bed at 8:30 , 9 o'clock. I feel like a
little old lady and I'm 51 years old."
- Jane's fatigue is one of the many symptoms
she has of the mystery skin disease, some call Morgellon's.
- As a nurse for 24 years, her first reaction
was to see a doctor. However, that is where her trouble began.
- "I'm absolutely disappointed, disillusioned
and very, very angry at the medical community," says Waldoch.
- In the past year, she's been referred
to all kinds of doctors.
- "Internal medicine, multiple dermatologists,
infectious disease, then it went to Rheumatology, Endocrinology, Neurology..."
- The doctors saw the sores, but couldn't
figure out what was causing them.
- "They'd look at me and say, 'Its
dry skin, quit worrying about it.' I'm saying, 'This is the weirdest dry
skin I've ever seen in my life!'"
- Still, she followed doctors' orders,
and took her medications; all two dozen bottles of them.
- But none of these drugs worked. So Jane
began collecting samples of what was coming out of her skin. She thought
it would help her doctors diagnose this bizarre and painful skin condition.
- She was wrong.
- Doctors took it as a sign that Jane was
- "One of the hallmark clues to delusional
parasitosis is what they call the matchbox sign. I guess in the older days
people would take their samples in little match boxes to their physician,"
- Mary Leitao from the Morgellons foundation
says patients would do this to prove they were telling the truth.
- Jane says she finds fibers that look
like crunched up bugs in her sheets every morning. They come from the dozens
of sores that cover her arms, legs, back and neck.
- "I never thought I'd be in this
position, of being embarrassed with who I am, and what I look like."
- However, Jane is coming forward, hoping
her story will help find a cure, especially for the youngest victims.
- Jane is not the only case of the mystery
disease found on the first coast. More than 100 people have confirmed they
have been suffering from the exact same symptoms, some for as long two
decades. Many of them have been diagnosed with delusions of parasitosis.
- One research foundation estimates that
there are more than 13-hundred people across the country with Morgellons
- The true number may be a lot higher.
- Mary Leitao is a biologist and the executive
director of the Morgellons Foundation. The foundation is studying this
mysterious skin disease.
- They call it Morgellons -- because it
looks and sounds exactly like an infection doctors wrote about in the 1600's.
- However, 400 years later, these stories
don't add up to a diagnosis.
- However, researchers may be getting the
help they need to find a major breakthrough.
- Deborah Altschuler is the president of
the National Pediculosis Association in Boston, Massachusetts. The foundation
was created to increase awareness about head lice and protect children
- Altschuler has been studying a disease
that sounds exactly like Morgellons disease.
- "People were calling us with very
similar symptoms from all over the country," says Altschuler.
- The NPA teamed up with the Oklahoma State
Department of Health to study the creepy crawlers.
- They took skin samples from 20 patients
who claim they have the bugs, but were diagnosed by their doctors as delusional.
- Researchers found collembolan, a microscopic
critter, in 18 of the 20 patients.
- Collembola feed on algae, bacteria and
decaying matter. They thrive in wet or damp surroundings, and can be found
under leaky kitchen or bathroom sinks, swimming pools, and the soil of
- The report was published in the journal
of the New York Entomological Association. However, it wasn't enough evidence
to get the centers for disease control to take action.
- The CDC told Altschuler that the collembola
was not a danger to humans, even though she says the CDC has shown her
no specific study to prove it.
- The Morgellons Foundation says it was
also shot down by the CDC.
- If the research on the collembola is
right, researchers still have to figure out how serious these critters
are to your health, and they have to find out how to kill them.