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People at Risk

Posted By: von Monke
Date: Thursday, 13-Jan-2000 18:07:11
www.rumormillnews.com

In Response To: Oak Ridge Y2K (One Eyed Man)

I took the following from the Tennessean's website. It may be remembered that a few years ago there was an unexplained foul odor in the Knoxville area. That incident also received regional attention. McMinnville is quite near the Manchester/Tullahoma area.

HEALTH Anxiety caused illness at school, study finds

By Leon Alligood / Tennessean Staff Writer and Tennessean News Services

Neither viruses, pesticides, fumes from a NEARBY CAVE (my emphasis - vM) nor poisons were responsible for a November 1998 outbreak of illness that sent more than 170 Warren County High School students to the local hospital.

According to an article in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the sickness at the McMinnville, Tenn., school was caused by mass hysteria, real symptoms triggered by anxiety.

"It's something I suspected at the time, but you can't tell that many people that they are not sick, especially when they are students and you have worried parents," Principal George Bolding said.

"I hope I never see anything like that happen again. It was a PR (public relations) nightmare."

More than 170 students, teachers and others sought emergency treatment during the outbreak at Warren County High. The school of 2,000 students was closed for about two weeks. Health authorities estimated $100,000 was spent on emergency care alone.

Numerous government investigators studied the school grounds and analyzed blood samples. They examined puddles and grease traps and EVEN CHECKED THE AIR OF CAVES BELOW THE SCHOOL (emphasis mine - vM).

They found nothing.

The Tennessee investigators were emphatic that no virus, chemical or toxin spread the illness through the school.

The Journal report's lead author is Dr. Timothy Jones of the Tennessee Department of Health. At the time of the outbreak at the high school, however, Jones was an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

"We did the most thorough environmental and epidemiological study that was humanly possible," Jones said.

The illnesses began with a teacher alerting Bolding to a "funny odor" in her room.

"When I got to the classroom the teacher was outside in the hallway. She said she was not feeling well at all," the principal recalled.

Bolding entered the classroom and also detected an odor, even developed a slight headache from the smell.

While the smell's source was not discovered, the investigators did discover classic signs of contagious anxiety: Victims were about three times more likely than others to have seen another sick person or to know that a classmate was ill. Sixty-nine percent were women, compared with 52% of the school population.

Psychogenic illness is imperfectly understood. Researchers said outbreaks can sometimes be stemmed with fast reassurances. But people often resist the mass-hysteria explanation, because they find it embarrassing. Also, there are real environmental and biological threats that often can't be ruled out without time-consuming tests.

Investigators said outbreaks of mass hysteria are much more common than recognized at schools and in other close-knit communities. The researchers contend cases of hysteria-related "psychogenic illness" will probably become more frequent with rising public worry over biological terrorism.

New technology may also be promoting new forms of hysteria. Dr. Ron House, a University of Toronto researcher who has studied mass hysteria in Canada, said Internet messages about real or imagined symptoms of conditions like chemical sensitivity now appear to be touching off such outbreaks in people at great distances from one another.

Women have long been thought prone to it, though some experts now dismiss that as the bias of male researchers. Others suggest that working women feel less control over their environment than men -- another classic factor in hysteria.

Outbreaks, often worsened by news reports, are also thought to be more likely in groups under great psychological or physical stress.

Indeed, Jones doesn't dispute that Bolding and the teacher smelled something disagreeable, but the Journal article said the subsequent wave of students and other teachers who claimed to be affected by the mysterious odor was a response triggered by "contagious anxiety."

To help alleviate a future outbreak, Bolding said, he formed an indoor air quality team of teachers, custodians, cooks and equipment maintenance workers at Warren County High.

"Once a month they do a walk-through of the building. This helps us keep tabs on what's going on. This is a big building where you have cooking smells, odors from the woodworking shop and the automotive shops. We just want to make sure that all the places where bad odors could come from are watched carefully," the principal said.

"We also have a full-time heating and air man at the school now. We didn't have that before," he added.

Leon Alligood covers state government for The Tennessean. He can be reached at lalligood@tennessean.com or 259-8279.

Copyright 2000 The Tennessean

A Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper


Tennessean Story Link



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Articles In This Thread

Oak Ridge Y2K
One Eyed Man -- Wednesday, 5-Jan-2000 08:10:18
Coke & Pepsi
von Monke -- Wednesday, 5-Jan-2000 12:21:23
Re: Coke & Pepsi
One Eyed Man -- Wednesday, 5-Jan-2000 14:47:24
Re: Coke & Pepsi
von Monke -- Saturday, 8-Jan-2000 20:47:21
Re: Coke & Pepsi
Freddie Arbuthnot -- Saturday, 15-Jan-2000 13:02:34
Coca-Cola Blues
von Monke -- Wednesday, 26-Jan-2000 16:24:40
People at Risk
von Monke -- Thursday, 13-Jan-2000 18:07:11

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AN EXPLANATION OF THE FACTIONS