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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

What Is It?

The lining around your lungs is called the pleura. Pleurodynia is a general term for pain from this lining pain in the chest or upper abdomen when you breathe. Epidemic pleurodynia is an infection caused by one of several viruses. This type of infection can cause a similar type of pain as the pain that comes from the lining around the lungs. However, in epidemic pleurodynia, the pain comes from the muscles in the chest that join ribs together.

Epidemic pleurodynia also is called Bornholm disease, Sylvest's disease, devil's grip and epidemic benign dry pleurisy. It usually is caused by one of the group B coxsackieviruses and is less often caused by a group A coxsackievirus or an echovirus.

Group B coxsackieviruses are transmitted from person to person by fecal-oral contamination or direct mouth to mouth contact. Other people become infected with the virus if they touch contaminated items then put their fingers in their mouths before washing them properly. Contaminated items can include soiled diapers, shared toys and toilets.

Epidemic pleurodynia is contagious and occurs in clusters, meaning many people in an area get it around the same time. Up to 90% of epidemics occur in the summer and early fall. The illness most commonly strikes people younger than age 30, although older people also may be affected.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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