The Centers for Disease Control is investigating a debilitating condition that is quickly spreading across the Atlanta metropolitan area.
State hospitals have reported more than 71,649 people have sought treatment over the last several days at 283 emergency rooms across Georgia, all with similar symptoms that include difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, tightness in the chest, headache, dizziness, feeling faint, numbness, extreme anxiety, dread, fear or feelings of losing control, feelings of powerlessness, and a choking sensation.
Health officials believe the area may be experiencing an outbreak of Hagiophobia, a disorienting condition they say is reaching levels not seen since 2009.
Hagiophobia is the persistant, intense fear of saints or holy things. The origin of the word hagio is Greek (meaning holy) and phobia is Greek (meaning fear). It is generally accepted that the condition arises from a combination of external events (i.e. traumatic events) and internal predispositions (i.e. heredity or genetics). Hagiophobia can often be traced back to a specific triggering event, usually a traumatic experience.
“The full public health impact of this discovery and spread is unknown,” Stephen Falke, deputy director of the CDC, said in a statement. “We are concerned that this condition, which can cause many symptoms including significant depression, particularly for people living in the Atlanta area, is spreading in the United States.”
Physicians across Georgia are working to understand the condition before a bigger outbreak possibly occurs in 2019. But so far they have not come up with a definite answer. In 2009, over 28.3 million cases were diagnosed nationwide, the largest number to date, after the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV.
“Hagiophobia is spiking right now, but before it was rare – very, very rare,” said Falke. “Something changed in 2006. After that, there were intermittent occurrences every couple of years. But we saw it again in 2017, and now we’re having it every year. This latest occurrence may be the most extensive outbreak we’ve ever seen.”
Atlanta was the first city to report an outbreak of Hagiophobia this year. It was also the first to report occurrences in 2006, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2017. Since then, 11 other cities have reported cases of the condition in 2018: Baltimore, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Minnesota, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, and Tampa Bay.
With the NFC’s number one seed one win away from advancing to the league championship for the second time in franchise history, the Saints move closer to the possibility of playing in and winning a Super Bowl on the home field of their long-time rivals the Atlanta Falcons.
Ironically, if the Saints make it to Super Bowl LIII they will not leave the friendly confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome until moving into the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta where they will also use the Falcons practice facility to prepare, literally taking over their rival’s home more so than usual.
Flowery Branch, Georgia resident Kelly Pierce thought her 40-year-old husband, Jerren, just had a terrible, persistent cold over the last few months that just wouldn’t go away. But this past weekend, his condition worsened and now doctors are worried this could be the beginning of an epidemic in Georgia.
Jerren was admitted to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta on Sunday, January 13th at 5:04 p.m. when he began experiencing extreme sweating and nausea. According to the emergency room report, he came into the hospital profusely crying and trembling. While being admitted, he complained of shortness of breath and a constant ringing in the ears that sounded like “Who Dat.”
By 6:45 p.m., just as the Saints defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in a nailbiter, Jerren had become catatonic.
“It’s infuriating, you go to the doctor and you think you’re going to get answers and they’re going to give treatment and it will get better,” said Kelly. “The doctors were telling me they didn’t think they could do anything for my husband other than making him comfortable and that he’s just going to have to accept and live with the condition.”
Jerren now receives 60 minutes of happy hour therapy daily, which was developed from a regimen used to treat individuals suffering from SBLI degeneration. Yesterday he regained the ability to talk. Kelly called Jerren “one of the lucky ones.”
“The Aints are one of the luckiest damn teams I’ve ever seen, getting all the calls and all the bounces their way because of Katrina refs — it’s like they got someone up there looking out for them,” said a choking up Jerren from his hospital bed. “I have a PSL in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the thought of a Saints fan sitting in my seat with their swamp ass cheering for the Aints and possibly lifting a Lombardi in our stadium makes me physically sick. Seriously, I hope [Falcons owner Arthur] Blank is mad, because I’m tired of it.”
As the nightmare gets closer to becoming a reality for Falcons fans, health officials report the number of people diagnosed with Hagiophobia has hit a record high in Greater Atlanta since the Saints clinched the number one seed and continues to increase. About 3,968,737 people have contracted the debilitating condition over the last several weeks, sparking fears an epidemic could very quickly devastate the nation’s ninth largest metropolitan area.
“At this point, the majority of Hagiophobia activity and hospitalizations has been driven by Atlanta Falcons fans, which is puzzling because we had no idea there were Falcons fans,” Falke reported.