This was previously posted on the 27/10/10 on my previous blog Disease of the Week. I have changed it up a bit but its essentially the same. It received an Editor's Selection then so I've left it on the post.
Happy Halloween form Down Under! For every major holiday I like to check if there is a holiday specific disease, something like ‘Halloween Disease’. Turns out, there isn’t. It would seem there is a lot of literature showing links between Halloween and flares in celiac disease severity and diabetic diagnoses, I guess for fairly obvious reasons, but I did find one other paper that I thought was interesting.
A paper in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine by Dooley, Bostic and Becklus investigated the localised or point-sourced outbreak of sporotrichosis following Halloween celebrations.
Sporotrichosis is caused by the thermally dimorphic (can grow in one of two different forms depending on the environmental temperature) fungus Sporothrix schenckii and is characterised by subcutaneous nodules that can blister and ulcerate resulting in satellite lesions developing around the initial site of infection.
It is super rare, cant spread person to person, must be introduced subcutaneously (through skin breakage) and is readily treated by clinical anti-fungal medications. The only real issue with it is that symptoms can develop as many as 6 months after exposure but generally your body can deal with it pretty quickly without needing to see a doctor.
So where’s the Halloween connection? The source of the infections in this case was hay bales used to make props in a Halloween Spook House!
In all of the 5 people who developed symptoms, 4 maintained the hay bales and 1 was an unlucky visitor to the Spook House.
So if your part of the world celebrates Halloween maybe its worth being as scared of hay bales and Sporothrix schenckii as you are of the various vampires, ghosts, zombies, werewolves and skeletons roaming around your home.
Dooley DP, Bostic PS, & Beckius ML (1997). Spook house sporotrichosis. A point-source outbreak of sporotrichosis associated with hay bale props in a Halloween haunted-house. Archives of internal medicine, 157 (16), 1885-7 PMID: 9290549