A strange new illness which causes students to faint out of nowhere has been reported in Vietnam schools including one in Phu Yien according to Thanh Nien news. The illness reportedly affects students by grade rather than by age specifically. Reports of students dropping all over, getting up, and dropping again are reminiscent to some of another illness that struck in 1518.
The illness is being called mass hysteria by some who suggest such an illness could not be affecting so many people out of nowhere over such a large area so suddenly. It appears to be spread by mouth, but only by word of mouth – not by any known toxins or germs. But is it actually nothing more than a case of mass hysteria? The history of mass hysteria is a long and strange one with large groups of people manifesting illnesses often in exceedingly bizarre ways or under seemingly unlikely conditions.
One example of mass hysteria reaching an extreme is attributed to a similar illness in 1518 known as the dancing plague where individuals danced themselves to death over the course of a week. It began with one woman who began dancing in the streets, but ended with hundreds of others joining in and eventually music being played to the dancers. Unfortunately many of the sufferers continued dancing until they would collapse and die ignoring food, drink, and even sleep and driven only by an unexplained hysteria that drove them through a torturous and impossible to console death.
In 1962 the Tanganyika incident had scores of students spread throughout a boarding school laughing nonstop for days. The illness eventually spread to a nearby village and over a thousand people were affected by it. Schools were shut down and businesses closed as the illness ran its course. The symptoms included laughing, bouts of crying, intermittent and unexplained screaming, fainting, pain from the constant barrage of laughter, and a complete shutdown of civilization in the city.
So although reports of large amounts of students fainting is fairly strange, if it proves to be mass hysteria alone and not something else it is only the latest manifestation of an illness that has been around for quite some time.
But mass hysteria itself is not well understood. And there are those in psychology who suggest the illness may not even exist at all. So what would be the cause then of such incredibly strange behavior by so many people who seem to be connected only by socialization and region? Is it possible region may not enter into the equation at all? And how vast can similar illnesses spread? Could it affect an entire nation? The world? Would we know it if the entire world were somehow suffering from some mass hysteria that affected billions of people but couldn’t be altered? The thought is a disturbing one indeed.