Millions of people who read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books are familiar with the story of her sister, Mary, who became blind after a bout with scarlet fever. But was it really scarlet fever? In a historical perspective feature in the March 2013 Pediatrics, “Blindness in Walnut Grove: How Did Mary Ingalls Lose Her Sight?” (published online Feb. 4), experts in pediatric infectious diseases, ophthalmology and medical research conclude it was actually viral meningoencephalitis that caused Mary’s blindness. To make this case, the authors use evidence from newspaper reports of Mary’s illness and first-hand accounts of Mary’s illness in Laura Ingalls’ memoirs, as well as school registries and epidemiologic data on blindness and infectious diseases in the years when Mary and Laura Ingalls were children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. (www.aap.org)