Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling’s Fast Facts About the World of Fringe Medicine

A Pulitzer Prize finalist’s bizarre journalistic journey through the world of fringe medicine, filled with leeches, baking soda IVs, and, according to at least one person, zombies. Buckle up for a bumpy ride…unless you’re against seatbelts. Read ahead for Matthew’s 10 fast facts about fringe medicine through history.

1. In 1999, vaccines had a higher approval rating than Dolly Parton, and measles was eradicated from America.

By 2015, faith in vaccinations had fallen so low that measles outbreaks resumed, and a woman died of measles.

2. Medicinal leeches were so popular in the late 1700s that they were hunted to near-extinction in many European countries.

At leech farms, people fed their leeches by driving cows into water.

3. In 2021, USA Today was forced to do a fact check asserting that vaccines would not turn people into zombies.

This conspiracy theory’s origins lie in the extreme fringes of alternative medicine.

4. At a coronavirus press conference, Donald Trump suggested disinfectant could be used to cleanse internal body cavities of coronavirus.

The idea came from a man named Jim Humble, who believed that he was an alien sent to Earth to promote a disinfectant-based solution as the cure to all diseases.

5. In 1999, there were 400 illegal online pharmacies. By 2020, there were 35,000.

6. Mississippi has only 191 licensed doctors per 100,000 residents. In Russia, Italy and Kazakhstan, there are roughly 400 per 100,000.

7. It is two thousand times more profitable to illegally sell sildenafil, a drug that causes erections, than it is to sell cocaine.

8. By 2011, roughly one in 200 Americans who boarded an international flight – a million people – did so to receive health care in another country.

9. Roughly 20 percent of Americans report that they exclusively use alternative medicine over evidence-based care.

10. In 1850’s Paris, an estimated 320,000 rates lived burrowed beneath a slaughterhouse. People were afraid to close it down, lest the hungry rats turn on the people.