Mass Hysteria with an Anti-Vaccine Twist

Via The Daily Beast:  ‘Some 200 preteen and teenage girls in a Colombian village have suddenly developed symptoms, including nausea, dizziness and fatigue, without clear explanation. The rapidity of onset has raised concerns that there might be an infection going through the town or—more sinister—that it could be a reaction to a vaccine introduced to prevent human papilloma virus HPV.

Likely it is neither. In fact, the exact story has played out previously in another town—Le Roy, New York, in 2012—with the same age group and sex of the affected all girls but one, and the same vaccine just introduced. There was a call from anti-vaccine enthusiasts and others to halt the vaccine ASAP until the inconvenient fact came out that, though the vaccine was indeed being given in the town, many of the teens with the symptoms had not received it. Ah, well.

Rather than a strict medical cause, many have labeled the Le Roy problem and the current Colombia illnesses as “mass hysteria” or a “mass psychogenic illness” MPI. This diagnosis occupies a uniquely dark and uncomfortable corner of medicine. The concept of mass hysteria is rather chilling to consider. It is particularly awkward given the demographic: Almost every example is that of young girls who develop a cluster of near-identical symptoms. And, after much sturm und drang, all are diagnosed as nuts though with gentler, more clinical terms by older men who, let’s face it, are not without their own issues. ‘


The Strange History of ‘Mad Honey’

Via Modern Farmer:  ‘Visit the remote mountainside towns in Turkey’s Black Sea region during springtime and you may witness beekeepers hauling their hives upslope, until they reach vast fields of cream and magenta rhododendron flowers. Here, they unleash their bees, which pollinate the blossoms and make a kind of honey from them so potent, it’s been used as a weapon of war.

The dark, reddish, “mad honey,” known as deli bal in Turkey, contains an ingredient from rhododendron nectar called grayanotoxin — a natural neurotoxin that, even in small quantities, brings on light-headedness and sometimes, hallucinations. In the 1700s, the Black Sea region traded this potent produce with Europe, where the honey was infused with drinks to give boozers a greater high than alcohol could deliver.

When over-imbibed, however, the honey can cause low blood pressure and irregularities in the heartbeat that bring on nausea, numbness, blurred vision, fainting, potent hallucinations, seizures, and even death, in rare cases. Nowadays, cases of mad honey poisoning crop up every few years—oftentimes in travelers who have visited Turkey.’ (thanks to Boing Boing)


New species of giant dinosaur unearthed

Via  ‘A new species of gigantic dinosaur that weighed more than 59 tonnes and stretched 26 metres from head to tail has been unearthed in an Argentinian desert. And the giant plant eater, named Dreadnoughtus schrani, had not finished growing when it died between 83 million and 66 million years ago. “Dreadnoughtus schrani was astoundingly huge,” said palaeontologist Kenneth Lacovara, who discovered the fossil skeleton in southern Patagonia and led the excavation and analysis.’


New Orleans Voodoo: Before and After Hurricane Katrina

Via Pacific Standard:  ‘When Hurricane Katrina broke the levees of New Orleans and flooded 85 percent of the city, 100,000 people were left homeless. Disproportionately, these were the poor and black residents of New Orleans. This same population faced more hurdles to returning than their wealthier and whiter counterparts thanks to the effects of poverty, but also choices made by policymakers and politicians—some would say made deliberately—that reduced the black population of the city.

With them went many of the practitioners of voodoo, a faith with its origins in the merging of West African belief systems and Catholicism. At Newsweek, Stacey Anderson writes that locals claim that the voodoo community was 2,500 to 3,000 people strong before Katrina, but after that number was reduced to around 300.’