As the parents of a child with a rare disease we have a passion for raising awareness in our community. Zebras have become a symbol for the rare disease world. Our personal connection to zebras is with Adrenal Insufficiency which can be caused by 50+ conditions, most of them rare. Jennifer is director and co-founder of Adrenal Insufficiency United. Adrenal Insufficiency is life threatening, has no cure, and is treated with steroids. Please visit Jennifer’s website to learn more.
The zebra is used as a symbol for rare diseases since about 1940.
This comes from a quote by Dr. Theodore Woodward: “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” and “When you hear hoofbeats behind you, don’t expect to see a zebra.”
This is the metaphor Dr. Woodward used to teach students basic concepts about the diagnosis of disease: when examining a patient’s symptoms, it’s better to think of a horse rather than a zebra. It’s a fact that horses are hoofed animals more commonly encountered than zebras, so you should automatically assume that if you hear the sound of hooves, it should be a horse, not a zebra, right?
THE ZEBRA-STRIPED RIBBON AS A SYMBOL FOR RARE DISEASES
In fact there are more than 7,000 rare zebra diseases with more being found every year. If you see the zebra emoji 🦓 🦓 in a post it references information or facts about a rare disease along with a link to learn more.
Black and White zebra stripes usually indicate that the disease is known while the colored stripes are for those rare diseases yet to be found. We choose the colored zebras for our FB page and thumbnails because we don’t know what surprising and unexpected discovery we’ll find on our journey. We hope to find many of them!
I’m also hoping and looking forward to finding some of my zebra advocates along the way. Maybe you can help us find the special places in your town and teach us about your rare disease, disorder or condition!
Learn more by visiting one or more of these great sites.
- NORD The National Organization for Rare Disorders
- Global Genes
- Everylife Foundation
- RDLA Rare Disease Legislative Advocates