Show Your Stripes, Zebras!

Rare disease patients have adopted the zebra as an icon. Find out why.

Story

Every day in February, we’re sharing content about rare diseases in anticipation of Rare Disease Day on the last day of the month. Today, find out how the zebra came to be an important symbol for the rare disease community.

As the practice of medicine has evolved, patients have gained – some would even say demanded – more of a voice in their medical care. Who could have predicted that the zebra would become a proud sign of that progress?

It started with an oft-quoted axiom of medical training that instructed students to look for the most common illnesses and causes for symptoms, not the most rare. That advice might work in many cases, but not all. Some people have symptoms that defy easy explanations and they often wait years for an accurate diagnosis. They are the zebras.