Why California?

The Morgellons story that is fed to the media contains several talking points that the reporters gladly repeat, ignoring the most obvious of explanations. Fibers are found on the skin. Fuzzballs are somehow deemed to look unusual. Fibers are found to glow under UV light. Patients’ physical symptoms are dismissed as psychological. Patients did not make their own lesions.

One that comes up over and over, is that Morgellons is found most in California, Texas and Florida, and there are hotspots of it in various cities. This is generally quite explainable by the fact that more people live in those states, and cities, so obviously there would be more cases there. But there is one claim that seems to actually give weight to the MRFs claim of an unusual distribution. From their web site:

Although California represents 12% of the US population, 24% of all families in the U.S. who have registered with the Morgellons Research Foundation reside in California

So that’s twice as many cases as you would expect by random chance! Clearly something is going on! Does this prove Morgellons?

Firstly, it simply shows that the MRF database does not represent a random sampling of the US population. You could interpret this in a number of ways, both pro and con. If Morgellons were an infectious disease, then you could argue that you would expect a more even spread, and the concentration in California perhaps indicates it’s something environmental, like ticks. (unfortunately, most ticks are in the Eastern US).

But we don’t really need to reach very far for explanations. Indeed, we should be remembering Occam here, and not introducing new entities into the mix. The reason for the high concentration of cases in California can be found on one page of the MRF’s web site, their list of television news stories about Morgellons.


One thing that becomes clear is that there are simply a lot of television shows on Morgellons that showed in California. I broke it down into California and Texas

Station City State Shows Population (Metro) Exposure
KTVU San Francisco CA 3 7,236,391 21,709,173
KCBS Los Angeles CA 2 12,950,129 25,900,258
KGTV San Diego CA 1 2,941,454 2,941,454
CBS5 San Francisco CA 1 7,236,391 7,236,391
        TOTAL CA 57,787,276
KXAN Austin TX 1 1,513,565 1,513,565
KVUE Austin TX 1 1,513,565 1,513,565
KPRC Houston TX 1 5,539,949 5,539,949
WOAI San Antonio TX 1 1,942,217 1,942,217
KHOU Houston TX 1 5,539,949 5,539,949
KENS San Antonio TX 3 1,942,217 5,826,651
        TOTAL TX 21,875,896

Look how much bigger the cities are in California. Even though the number of shows is about the same, there’s nearly three times the audience exposure in CA as there is in TX. When you take the relative population of CA (36.5Million) and TX(23.5 MIllion), you come up with a figure of 1.7 times. That 1.7 times as many people (as a percentage of the state population) in California saw a local TV show on Morgellons as did in Texas (math: (57.7/36.5)/(21.8/23.5) = 1.7). Given that the Texas figures are also going to be above the national average, due to its extensive local TV coverage, then it’s hardly surprising that California has 2 times the national average of the incidence of people who heard about Morgellons and decided to visit the MRF web site, and eventually register.

So you see, the MRF’s database IS a random sampling of the US population. Just weighted by media coverage.